22 March 2013

Provincial Court Announces Scheduling Reform Project

The Provincial Court has announced a project to overhaul how court time is scheduled. The aptly named Provincial Court Scheduling Project has just release the first issue of a newsletter (PDF) intended to keep court users and other stakeholders up to date on the status of the project and address common questions and concerns. According to the newsletter,
"The Provincial Court Scheduling Project will restructure court scheduling. The new model will provide more timely access to justice by reducing waiting times to trial and returning case management responsibilities to counsel. The latter will promote discussion between parties and foster earlier case resolution.  
"Currently, the PCS Project Team is developing the details of the new scheduling model and designing new software, the Provincial Court Scheduling System (PCSS), to support the new model. ..."
Implementation is set to begin in later 2013 with the province-wide roll out continuing through 2014. Questions and comments can be directed to the PCSP Project Team at pcss@provincialcourt.bc.ca.

19 March 2013

Family Law Act Online Resources

Now the dust has begun to settle, I thought it would be helpful to put together a collection of links related to the new legislation. Here it is, and I will be updating it as the Queen's Printer is able to generate updated material. Bookmark this post by clicking on the title.

Legislation and Regulations
Rules of Court and Practice Materials
Rules of Court
Ministry of Justice Resources

18 March 2013

Guest Column: Attorney General on the New Family Law Act

by the Honourable Shirley Bond,
Minister of Justice and Attorney General

For the first time in more than three decades, British Columbia has brought in landmark legislation introducing new, modernized family law.

If you’re a frequent visitor to this blog, you are probably aware of the broad scope of changes that take effect under the new Family Law Act today. Over the past six years, JP Boyd has provided an abundance of information on the subject and this blog has served as a valuable family law resource in our province. His work to explain in plain language the changes under the new act has significantly contributed to the public understanding of new law, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his work and highlight some of the key pieces in this new legislation.

The Family Law Act is centered on supporting modern B.C. families, no matter how they are defined. The unfortunate reality is that the number of families going through separation and divorce is on the rise. Family life and society in general, has changed significantly since 1979, which is when the outdated Family Relations Act took effect. Over time, the courts have stepped in and made rulings that reflect our modern society.

Our new family law reflects family justice reform in a way that better represents the values of our citizens, and it addresses and provides clarity around important topics like out-of-court dispute resolution, property division and parenting arrangements and family violence. Most importantly, the new family law is about ensuring children’s interests and safety are given the utmost priority when families go through the emotional turmoil that often comes with separation and divorce.

Our government’s work to replace the old Family Relations Act and replace it with today’s Family Law Act has been underway since 2006, and has been guided by four B.C. attorneys general along the way.

On behalf of the B.C. government, I would like to offer gratitude and appreciation to JP Boyd, as well as other members of the Family Law Act Advisory Committee, for the countless hours they have devoted to helping us reform, prepare and train for the new Family Law Act. Their work has not gone unnoticed, and B.C. families will be better served as a result of their efforts.

About the Honourable Shirley Bond

Shirley Bond was elected in 2001 and 2005 as the MLA for Prince George-Mount Robson, and re-elected for a third term in 2009 as the MLA for Prince George-Valemount. Shirley was appointed Minister of Justice and Attorney General on 8 February 2012. Prior to her new role, she was appointed Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General on 14 March 2011 and Acting Attorney General on 18 August 2011. She is the first woman in British Columbia to hold these positions.

As Minister of Justice and Attorney General, she is responsible for police and correctional services, the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, crime prevention and victims’ assistance, and emergency management. As Attorney General, she is also responsible for criminal justice and family law, court administration, legal aid and public legal education, family maintenance and legal services to government.

12 March 2013

Regulation Amended: Family Law Act Regulation adjusted for guardianship applications

In my post "Amendments Amended: Rules of Court adjusted for guardianship applications," I mentioned that the Provincial Court Family Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules had been amended to accommodate the unpleasant requirements of s. 51(2) of the Family Law Act for persons applying for appointment as the guardian of a child. My colleague Kathleen Packard has supplied the link I was missing to the amendments that were also made to the Family Law Act Regulation.

Here's a summary of the amendments:
  • Order in Council 66-2013 amends the Provincial Court Family Rules to provide a new rule, Rule 18.1, and a new form of affidavit, Form 34, for guardianship applications. 
  • Order in Council 67-2013 amends the Supreme Court Family Rules to provide a new rule, Rule 15-2.1, and a new form of affidavit, Form F101, for guardianship applications.
  • Order in Council 68-2013 amends the Family Law Act Regulation to provide a new form, Form 5, to apply for child protection records checks, as required by the new Provincial Court and Supreme Court rules.

11 March 2013

Family Law Act Comes into Force in One Week

It's almost here, the date the new Family Law Act comes into force. I thought I would take the opportunity to review the complicated transitional provisions that will guide us gently from the Family Relations Act regime that has governed family law matters in British Columbia for more than thirty years into this brave new world.

This is a comprehensive summary of the transitional provisions applicable to proceedings in the Provincial Family Court:

This is a comprehensive summary of the transitional provisions applicable to proceedings in the Supreme Court:
  • the parts of a court proceeding started under the Family Relations Act concerning the division of property continue under that act; and,
  • the parts of a court proceeding respecting an agreement about the division of property made before the Family Law Act comes into force must be continued or started under the Family Relations Act.
These provisions only apply to married spouses, as only married spouses were able to start a claim under the Family Relations Act for the division of property or about agreements concerning the division of property.

No transitional provisions are made for any other issue, including with respect to the presumptions of guardianship, the care of children, the enforcement of parenting time or contact that has been wrongfully withheld, the relocation of children and guardians, child support and the new rules applicable to stepparents, spousal support and reviews of spousal support, protection orders and conduct orders. This was intentional. According to the Ministry of Justice in its online document The Family Law Act Explained:
"Generally, the transition provisions support the immediate use of the Family Law Act for family law disputes, even where they have been started under the Family Relations Act or where there are existing agreements or orders made under the Family Relations Act. This promotes a speedy transition to the new regime and ensures the tools and benefits of the new law can be realized immediately by all families."
"Speedy" is almost an understatement. When British Columbia wakes up on the morning of Monday 18 March 2013, the Family Law Act will be the law of the land. It will apply to:
  • all proceedings before the Provincial Court that started before March 18th;
  • all proceedings before the Supreme Court that started before March 18th, except for those claims about property that will continue under the old act;
  • all applications set for hearing that day;
  • all trials set to start that day; and,
  • all trials that started before March 18th that will be continuing on or after March 18th.
Buckle up.

07 March 2013

Guide for Victims of Family Violence Published by UBC Centre for Feminist Legal Studies

The Centre for Feminist Legal Studies at the UBC Faculty of Law has just published a helpful new paper, The BC Family Law Act: A Plain Language Guide for Women Who Have Experienced Abuse (PDF). According to the paper's introductory comments, the paper deals with family violence as it is addressed by the Family Law Act and
"...was written for women who are leaving or thinking about leaving a relationship with an abusive man and need information on family law problems. However, the information in this  guide applies to a marriage-like relationship between any two people, for example, two people in a same sex relationship."