27 December 2008

2008 In Review, Part 1: Legislation and Rules Reform

There were two interesting developments in the laws and rules relating to family law litigation in British Columbia in 2008, and both related to the close of public consultations on significant potential reforms.

First, the Attorney General's Family Relations Act Review came to a close early in the year. The Review was a soup-to-nuts consultation on the Family Relations Act, the most important piece of provincial legislation on family breakdown, which raised some controversial proposals (should parents with a right of access be forced to exercise that right?) and challenged many of the core principles of family law (should the property division rules that apply to married spouses also apply to unmarried couples?).

The consultation ended with a invitation-only round table at the posh Wosk Centre for Dialogue on two final issues: whether family violence should be a factor that the court must consider when evaluating the best interests of children; and, whether children should be included in the court process in some way? While the round table stirred up some interesting discussion, it ended on a sour note when an official from the attorney general's office, in the course of her concluding remarks, advised that no space had been reserved on the legislative agenda for any bills on the Family Relations Act... leading to the rather sad conclusion that there might not be any governmental interest in reforming the FRA at all.

A complete archive of the discussion papers released by the attorney general's office in the course of the review can be found at http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/legislation/archive.htm#fra.

Second, a set of draft rules were released for public comment by the Family Justice Review Task Force (FJRTF) that would apply to family law actions in the Supreme Court. The FJRTF was created in 2003 by the BC Justice Review Task Force, a joint project of the Law Society, the Canadian Bar Association British Columbia, the attorney general, the Supreme Court and the Provincial Court.

The draft rules are the culmination of the FJRTF's work, and follow up on the group's 2005 report A New Justice System for Children and Families. In that report, the FJRTF recommended that the rules and forms governing family law procedures be streamlined and simplified and that a single set of rules govern all family law cases.

The reaction of the family law bar to the new rules was decidedly mixed. On the one hand, I think it's safe to say that most lawyers liked the idea of a new set of rules just for family law cases, and suported the general idea of reform. On the other, however, many lawyers feel that the proposed restrictions on disclosure and discovery practices are excessive and that their ability to conduct the course of their clients' cases is unduly restricted.

The rules are available for public comment at http://www.bcjusticereviewforum.ca/familyrules/index.cfm and http://www.bcjusticereview.org/working_groups/family_justice/family_justice.asp, although the deadline for comment will expire on 31 December 2008.

Any new rules are not expected to be implemented until 2010.

24 December 2008


Welcome to the official blog companion to JP Boyd's BC Family Law Resource, www.bcfamilylawresource.com. I first published this website in 2001 as a short guide to family law and the court process in British Columbia for non-lawyers. The website grew as time went on, eventually turning into a resource of a breadth and depth I hadn't anticipated, with lots of bells and whistles like Q&A sections, a breaking news section and other features that wound up taking more and more of my time to maintain. Eventually, I was faced with the difficult decision of either forcing myself to spend time I didn't have keeping the website up to date or simply removing the high-maintenance parts of the site. I wound up choosing the second option, as you'd probably expect.

I hope that this blog, which is a heck of a lot easier to update than my website, will help to fill the gap created when I renovated my website. This blog will offer updates on the legislation, court procedure and court rules that apply to family law cases, news of important developments in family law, and of course give me the opportunity to editorialize a bit every now and then.

I'll be integrating this blog into my website over the next two weeks or so and making the other updates and changes necessary to usher the website into 2009. After that, I'll be posting a quick year-in-review to this blog. And after that? You'll just have to come back and check for updates.