30 December 2012

Adult Children's Access to Parents Now Mandatory in China

The BBC has reported on an innovative new law enacted by the Chinese government that would require adult children to visit their parents or risk being sued by the state for their neglect. This is a serious problem in China, which lacks affordable elder care despite an eighth of the population being over sixty.

In British Columbia, where we do have a socialized system of health care and elder care options, we are of course proceeding in the opposite direction. Not only do we not have a law requiring adult children to visit their parents, our law requiring adult children to support to their parents was repealed by ss. 258 and 482 of the Family Law Act on 24 November 2011.

See the CBC report or the Financial Post report for further discussion of this innovative new law.

28 December 2012

New Code of Professional Conduct in Force in January

The new Code of Professional Conduct (PDF), the primary ethical guide governing the conduct of lawyers in British Columbia, will be in effect on 1 January 2013. The new Code will replace the Professional Conduct Handbook, which has provided guidance to lawyers for the last twenty years.

According to an article published in the Law Society's newsletter Benchers' Bulletin, the rational for the new Code stems from the need to harmonize ethical standards among the provinces and territories to allow lawyers to more easily practice in multiple jurisdictions. The Code is based on a model code of conduct developed by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada which has already been adopted in Alberta, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.

The Benchers' Bulletin article gives the impression that not much has changed between the Handbook and the new Code:
"The BC Code has been designed as a reference tool to help assist lawyers and the Law Society in answering those ethical questions. The ethical guidelines familiar from the Handbook have been preserved in the BC Code, but they have been expressed in a way that is expected to make it easier for the profession to use. 
"'The principles are the same, but the manner of expressing those principles is better,' said [Gavin] Hume. He describes the Handbook as a kind of 'statutory' document, similar to legislation. The BC Code, on the other hand, provides a rule and then additional commentary on how the rule operates."
Family law lawyers already grappling with the new Family Law Act, new regulations and new rules for the Supreme Court and Provincial Court will be grateful for the relative modesty of the change.

12 December 2012

Time Running Out to Complete Important CBA/NJI Survey

A few weeks ago, the Canadian Bar Association distributed an invitation to members of its family law section to participate in a survey being conducted by the National Judicial Institute. Time is running out; the survey will close on Friday 14 December 2012.

The NJI is the primary national organization providing continuing judicial education and the survey is timed for use at the Institute's family law seminar in February 2013. The survey is of particular importance for family law lawyers as it concerns the most difficult of all problems, the enforcement of orders and agreements for access. According to the introduction to the survey,
"This survey is intended to canvas family law lawyers’ opinions on the enforcement of orders and agreements dealing with custody and access. Bearing in mind that the bench has little if any influence over legislative reforms, do the available mechanisms work well or poorly? Could they be made to work better or should they be scrapped and other mechanisms implemented in their place? In particular, how effective are current remedies pursued through the courts?"
If you are a lawyer practicing family law to any significant extent, please complete the survey. It is relatively short and likely won't take more than 15 minutes to complete.

The survey, which is intended for lawyers only, can be found here: survey closed.

06 December 2012

Mediate BC Launches Program Addressing Support for Adult Children

Mediate BC has announced the launch of a new pilot project — the Child Support Eligibility Mediation Project — intended to address the often contentious issue of child support in respect of children who have reached or are approaching the age of majority. According to the society's statement, the aim of the program is to "help separated families resolve disputes concerning the eligibility of adult children for child support and special expenses" by creating an educational plan with the assistance of a mediator.

The service free and is available to separated parents whose children are either in Grade Twelve or are nineteen and older and enrolled in a post-secondary program.

The Child Support Eligibility Mediation Project is being carried out in collaboration with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program and is funded by the Law Foundation of British Columbia and the Director of Maintenance Enforcement.

04 December 2012

Attorney General Appoints Nine New Provincial Court Judges

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Shirley Bond has today appointed nine new judges to the Provincial Court bench. According to the Ministry's press release, Surrey will be getting two judges and Kamloops, North Vancouver, the Northeast district, Port Coquitlam and Vancouver will each get one judge. Two judges will be assigned to work out of the Office of the Chief Judge.

The new judges, almost of whom have backgrounds in criminal law, will bring the judicial complement of the court up to 131.80 full-time equivalent judges, only 12 fewer judges than the court's complement in 2005. 

The Chief Judge, in a statement (PDF) released later today, observes that a number of vacancies are foreseeable over the course of 2013 because of judges retiring or moving to part-time status and notes that the increase in the number of Provincial Court judges resulting from the new appointments will be short lived as a result:
"I am encouraged by today's announcement regarding the appointment of nine new Provincial Court Judges. As Chief Judge, my focus is on identifying and meeting the ongoing needs of the Court, including increasing accessibility to the Court. 
"The early replacement of several Judges scheduled to retire or join the senior program in 2013 will provide some capacity to assist in reducing the case backlog."