21 April 2013

Backbencher's Bill on Grandparental Rights Tabled in Ontario

The Globe & Mail has reported on a bill tabled by Liberal MPP Kim Craitor and NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo in the Ontario legislative assembly. The bill would amend the Children's Law Reform Act, a law dealing with the consequences of separation like our Family Law Act but limited to matters concerning children, to allow for "the formation or the continuation of a personal relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild."

The Globe article describes Craitor as saying that grandparents' access to their children can be cut off "when children are used as pawns in a nasty divorce," and provides the following rather melodramatic quotes:
"Far too often what I have seen is that when a couple separates or gets a divorce ... sadly what happens is the relationship between the grandparent and the grandchild diminishes." 
"If you can imagine, a grandparent is no longer allowed to see their grandchild. It's just a horrible thing." 
"I could spend 30 hours telling you all the stories that I've heard and you'd probably shed a lot of tears when you hear from grandparents who've been denied access to their grandchildren." 
"[Grandparents are] more than just relatives. They can provide guidance, they can provide security that the children lack sometimes at home, they provide support, stability a sense of self to the children seeking love and understanding."
Our Family Law Act, like the Family Relations Act before it, says that grandparents can apply for contact (or even guardianship) but provides them no privileged status over other extended family members or even unrelated strangers, and the courts have approached the issue from the perspective that the people with the primary entitlement to time with a child are the child's parents.

Frankly, I'm not sure that this isn't appropriate. I do recognize that grandparents have a special role in a child's life, but the legislation that is designed to guide parents and the courts in handling family breakdown is complicated enough. Family law disputes are quite complex and take an enormous amount of time to resolve as it is; do we really need to add four more parties to the dispute between a child's parents? I have no issue with statements recognizing the special value of relationships between grandparents and grandchildren, but if the new bill proposes to give grandparents a particular standing in the legal dispute between separated parents, I cannot see how the extension of conflict and cost could possibly be in the best interests of the children.

18 April 2013

Family Law Act Commentary Available

Courthouse Libraries BC has published two articles of mine on the new Family Law Act that may be useful for those in search of additional resources and commetary on the act.

The first, "Varying orders and setting aside agreements under the FLA," is a chart of the tests prescribed by the act to change orders and set aside agreements. The applicable tests differ depending on the subject matter and whether you're talking about an order or an agreement.

The second, "Adapting Joyce and Horn Models for Divorce Act and FLA," suggests some ways that the Joyce and Horn Models of guardianship, models that were commonly used to define the rights and responsibilities involved in joint guardianship under the old Family Relations Act, might be salvaged to define joint custody under the Divorce Act and the sharing of parental responsibilities among guardians under the Family Law Act.

In addition, the page Family Law Act Basics in my new wiki, JP Boyd on Family Law, has a complete plain-language breakdown of the new act.

09 April 2013

Consolidated Rules and Forms Now Available

The Queen's Printer has almost finished assembling versions of the Supreme Court Family Rules and the Provincial Court Family Rules which consolidate the existing rules and forms with the series of amendments that came into effect with the Family Law Act. The Supreme Court forms are still missing Form F101, the affidavit required for applications for appointment as the guardian of a child.

A list of additional electronic resources is available in my post "Family Law Act Online Resources".

02 April 2013

BC Family Law Resource Relaunched as Wiki with Courthouse Libraries

I am very excited to announce that today Courthouse Libraries BC has relaunched my former website, JP Boyd's BC Family Law Resource, under their Clicklaw Wiki banner as JP Boyd on Family Law. This new wiki is completely up to date for the Family Law Act and the amended rules of the Provincial Court and the Supreme Court.

BC Family Law Resource

In early 2001 I got the bright idea of setting up a public legal education website that would provide a stem-to-stern overview of family law, written in plain language that would be accessible to as many British Columbians as possible. This was long before the Ministry of Justice had put together its brilliant website on family justice and five or six years before the Legal Services Society released its excellent Family Law in British Columbia website.

After months of writing and coding webpages by hand — using the high technology of Microsoft's WordPad no less! — I hit the "send" key in November, and my idea was up and running as JP Boyd's BC Family Law Resource at www.bcfamilylawresource.com.

As time passed, I added more and more pages and more and more features, such as editable templates for common court forms as well as examples of what the forms looked like when finished, child support and spousal support calculators, a table of cases mentioned in the website, an alphabetical index, a glossary of eight- or nine-hundred legal words and phrases, a list of websites run by British Columbia family law lawyers and law firms, an internal search engine powered by Google and more.

As my website grew, so did traffic. Over the past year, traffic has regularly peaked at over 1,000 unique sessions per day during the work week and a total of more than 27,000 sessions per month. Taking my annual expenses and this volume of traffic, plus the traffic to my blog, into account, I figure my costs are around six ten-thousandths of a cent per visitor.

The New Family Law Act

Needless to say, the enactment of the Family Law Act in 2011, though undoubtedly a very, very good thing for most British Columbians, became the source of much soul-searching for me. Not only was I aghast by the prospect of retooling the 58 primary pages and 15 or so subsidiary pages in my website, some of which are really quite lengthy, I began to be concerned about how my website would survive in the event I was hit by a bus, left practice or lost the energy to maintain the website for some other reason altogether.

Courthouse Libraries BC to the rescue!

JP Boyd on Family Law

I've had very a cordial working relationship with Courthouse Libraries for a number of years now and have collaborated with them on a number of training programs for lawyers, public librarians and the general public, working with wonderful people like Janet Freeman (the LawMatters program coordinator), Nate Russell (a legal community liaison), Meghan Maddigan (a legal community liaison) and Drew Jackson (the redoubtable director of client services). One of them, likely Nate or Drew, had the masochistic idea of converting my website to a wiki platform — the rather robust and user-friendly platform that makes Wikipedia work — under the Courthouse Libraries banner.

After some thought, I realized that the proposal was brilliant. It would give me the comfort of knowing that my website would survive any career changes or a cataclysmic loss of enthusiasm; it would expand the pool of people contributing to the website beyond myself, and perhaps create a sense of community ownership; and, the content I had created would be significantly enriched with the input of people with different voices and different opinions. Even better, the wiki platform included a nifty book mode that would allow readers and libraries to make a print copy of all or part of the wiki in a smartly-designed, user-friendly book format. How cool is that? I accepted their proposal and Nate and Drew went to work.

Over the past year or so, Courthouse Libraries has worked to collect the funding needed to buy a new server and the software to go with it, and hire the graphic designers and copy editors needed to take my amateurish efforts to a more polished level. An advisory committee composed of Megan Ellis QC, a senior and well-respected family law lawyer, and representatives from the British Columbia Library Association, the Legal Services Society and Courthouse Libraries was established in late 2012, and has provided invaluable guidance for the transition. More recently, Megan has begun to assemble a stellar editorial team of experienced family law lawyers and family law lawyers new to practice to nurture and grow the wiki into the future.


I am extremely grateful for the expertise and time devoted to this project by Megan, Nate and Drew, and the not insignificant resources that Courthouse Libraries has allocated to establishing the new wiki. I am also humbled that the content of my former website, www.bcfamilylawresource.com, could possibly have been worthy of such attention and care.

I would like to extend my most sincere thanks to everyone involved, and in particular to Nate and Drew for their patience, energy and professionalism and dedication to this project. Thank you.

Get Involved!

If you're interested in contributing as as writer, commentator or as a member of the editorial team please contact Courthouse Libraries at: