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.


  1. For a common law couple who separated in December 2012 it makes more cents for the spouse wanting to share in the property to bring an application under the Family Law Act than bring it under the Family Relations Act.

  2. My Property Division trial was finished and arguments were made before March 18th however the judge is going to make the order a week after the new Act. Does anyone know if the new act applies to my case?

    1. As long as you were married, the parts of your trial about property will be dealt with under the Family Relations Act.

  3. If I suspect my wife is going to leave how do I stop her from taking my eight month old child under new act seeing as we are both guardians

    1. I'm sorry, but I can't give legal advice through this blog. You may wish to look at s. 64 of the Family Law Act, though.

    2. Thanks for your comment.