12 July 2012

A Note About the Present Effect of the New Family Law Act

I've been getting a lot of questions over the past few weeks about the status and current effect of the Family Law Act, a fair number of which have come from colleagues. Here's the deal.

The Family Law Act passed third reading on 23 November 2011 and received royal assent the next day. However, the lion's share of the new act is not presently in force. The act will come fully into force on 18 March 2013.

The parts of the act that are not in force — which is all of the important parts, really, including the parts about the care of children and the division of assets — have no legal effect in British Columbia until they come into force. Although people negotiating a private settlement can use the language and conceptual framework of the new act if they'd like, the parts that are not in effect cannot be used or relied upon by the court. For the court, it's as if those parts of the new act simply don't exist, and it would be an error of law for a judge to apply a provision of the act which is not in force in determining a current family law case.