Tuesday, July 20, 2010

B.C. to revolutionize Family Relations Act, revise legal definition of 'parent'

Is this just a change in terminology or is it real change. The latter would involve having both parents remain in the lives of children and getting to the real stats on DV which are pretty much equal between genders with the female partner initiating it at a greater rate. The fact Tracy Porteous, executive director of the Ending Violence Association, likes it is worrisome as their main goal in life is to exclude dads from the lives of their children and paint a broad brush of all men as evil. 

That being the case then nothing will be changed by these proposals. The fact no dads groups are being quoted in this article, only women and lawyers is telling. Lawyers are in it for the money, not the best interest of children, and have a vested interest in ensuring they are continually involved. That means continued adversarial relationships as that is their job -the best deal for their client – not the children.MJM 


Attorney-General Mike de Jong, Photograph by: Steve Bosch, Vancouver Sun

VICTORIA — The B.C. government plans revolutionary changes to family law to better reflect the realities of modern society.

Its proposals to update the 30-year-old Family Relations Act include revising the legal definition of a parent, changing property-division rules, making children’s interests the “only” consideration in parenting disputes, and even replacing the terms “custody” and “access” with “guardianship” and “parenting time.”

Another key aspect of the proposals is to change the adversarial aspect of separations, making it easier for couples to use out-of-court options to resolve issues such as child custody and division of assets.
“This is groundbreaking, absolutely groundbreaking,” said Vancouver lawyer Georgialee Lang, adding many lawyers have wanted to see these types of changes for years.

“I think they’ve done a very comprehensive job.”

In releasing more than 170 pages of recommended changes that will be open for public reaction and comment until October, Attorney-General Mike de Jong underscored how much families have changed in recent years.

“Increasing numbers of children are living with single parents or step-parents, the traditional family structure has changed, divorce and separation are far more common than they once were and we have a far better understanding today than perhaps we once did about the challenges associated with family violence and the impact that conflict has on children,” he said.

“We have family law built around a very adversarial model and we think there is a better way — when a family changes or when a relationship comes apart — there is a better way to resolve some of those issues then rushing off to court,” said de Jong.

“We will always need the court, but we do not need a system that is primarily an adversarial system.”---- Under the proposed new law, couples seeking a court proceeding must first demonstrate they have considered resolving their issues using other means. The law will also make the rules around negotiated agreements more predictable and easier to understand.

Reaction to the recommendations was immediately positive.

Tracy Porteous, executive director of the Ending Violence Association, said the government “is taking a big step today to increase the safety of women and children with respect to enforcement of protection orders and looking at the best interest of the child.”

She particularly liked the proposal to make the best interests of a child the “only” consideration in parenting disputes, and extending the definition of those interests to include factors such as the history of the child’s care, family violence and consideration of related civil or criminal proceedings.

New Democratic Party critic for the attorney-general Leonard Krog said he supported the proposed changes, and agreed the best place for family law cases is outside the court.

But he said he is concerned the B.C. Liberal government will not provide enough resources to support people going through mediation or other out-of-court settlements.

“Given [the government’s] record on broken promises, will they provide the kind of financing that is needed to support this system? Will there be accessible and affordable mediation services?” he asked.

“It’s all well and good to talk about trying to keep people out of the courtroom, well fine, where are you going to put them and how much is it going to cost them?”---- De Jong invited the public to review the detailed recommendations and to submit comments before Oct. 8. He said once the consultation is finished, government will finish drafting a bill that can be introduced into the legislature.

Coming after four years of consultation, the proposed changes reach into a variety of areas of family law.
The proposals would extend the rules of property division to couples who have been living together as common-law partners for more than two years, as well as to any common-law couples who have a child together.---- That change would be significant, as the property division aspect of the existing Family Relations Act generally does not apply to unmarried spouses.

The proposed new law also changes the way property is divided in the event of a separation, which the government says will create more certainty.

Under the new scheme, a couple would split property owned by one or both spouses at the time of separation, but with some exceptions. Those exceptions include items such as gifts and inheritances to one spouse; pre- and post-relationship property, and settlements or damage awards from tort claims involving just one spouse.

Under the existing law, property eligible for division is defined as that “ordinarily used for a family purpose,” a definition many have said is too vague.
The new proposals also seek to add legal clarity to situations where more than two people may be involved in the conception and birth of a child, such as artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization.
The new law would state that a birth mother would be the child’s legal mother and could only give up her parental status through either adoption or surrogacy.

In an assisted conception that is not a surrogacy, the law would presume the birth mother’s partner — either opposite sex or same sex — to be the child’s other parent.---- Third-party donors of eggs, sperm or embryo would not be considered a legal parent, though they would be allowed to apply for such a designation and the new law would allow for more than two legal parents to be named.

The proposed new law would also replace terms like “custody” and “access” with “guardianship” and “parenting time,” a move many say will lead to a less adversarial process.

The law would also make child access as much a responsibility as a right by allowing a court to intervene and take action if a parent “fails to exercise the parenting time or contact without notice to the applicable guardian.”

Those wanting to view the proposed changes, or make comments to the government, can do so here: www.ag.gov.bc.ca/legislation
Read the entire report here

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