Family Lawyer Vancouver Discusses New Family Law Act

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On March 18, 2013 the new Family Law Act (“FLA”) Bill 16-2011, will go into effect.  The main purposes of the FLA are to encourage families to use the out of court resolutions and to better protect children.  The following highlights three of the key changes.

Family Dispute Resolution

The FLA imposes on parties an obligation to make a joint effort to resolve their family law dispute outside the court system.  This obligation is because the court processes forces the parties to become adversaries which harms the children and dissipates the family’s assets.  How does the FLA ensure that the courts are used as the last resort for resolving disputes?  The FLA in Section 8(2) imposes a duty on every family dispute professional consulted by a party to a family law dispute to discuss with the party the advisability of using various types of family dispute resolution to resolve the matter, and inform the party of facilities and other resources that my be available to assist in resolving the dispute.  A litigation lawyer, who is acting on behalf of a party in a proceeding under the FLA, must provide, at the time the proceeding is started, a statement, signed by the lawyer, certifying that the lawyer has complied with Section 8(2).  The FLA defines “family dispute resolution professional” as a family justice counselor, parenting coordinator, lawyer, mediator, arbitrator and others in the class of prescribed persons.

Best Interests of the Child

The FLA uses language that encourages all participants to focus on what is in the best interests of the children.  The Act eliminates the uses of the adversarial nouns of “custody” and “access” replaces them with the co-parenting phrases “children’s guardians”, “parenting plan”, and “parenting arrangements”.

Section 8(3) imposes a duty on family dispute resolution professionals consulted by a party to a family law dispute to advise the party that agreements and orders dealing with guardianship, parenting arrangements and contact with the child must be made in the best interests of the child only.  It changes the focus from whichparent should win the fight for custody to what is the best parenting plan for this child.

Family Violence

The FLA broadens the definition of family violence because children and spouses need to be better protected from all types of family violence and families need a system that provides general and specific deterrence

Section 8(1) of the Family Law Act states that a family dispute professional consulted by a party to a family law dispute must assess, in accordance with the regulations, whether family violence may be present, and if it appears to be present, the extent to which the family violence may adversely affect the safety of the party or family member of that party and the ability of the party to negotiate a fair agreement.

Under the FLA “family violence” includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, attempts to abuse, psychological or emotional abuse including threats respecting persons, pets or property, restrictions on a family member’s financial or personal autonomy, stalking or following, intentional property damage, and a child’s direct or indirect exposure to family violence.  “Protection Orders” will now replace “Restraining Orders” because protecting victims should not be limited to restraining the offending family member.

 

At GILSIG Family Lawyers Vancouver and Divorce Lawyers Vancouver, our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: cohabitation agreements, marriage agreements, and separation agreements dealing with guardianship, parenting plans, parenting arrangements, child and spousal support, and division of family assets and debts.  For more information, visit us at www.gilsig.ca or contact us at info@gilsig.ca

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