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The new Family Law Act: Language changes (Part 1)

On November 24, 2011, BC’s new Family Law Act was introduced. This act will have wide-reaching effects on family law in the province. Here is a summary of the upcoming changes to the language used in family law. For more information, see the act itself and our introduction to the act.

The new Family Law Act introduces new and changed language. Here are definitions of some of the new terms (and changes to old terms) that will be used under the new act.

Guardian/guardianship: Parents who live together after the birth of their child are both considered the child’s guardians. This means they each have parental responsibilities.

After parents separate, they continue to both be guardians unless one of them is removed as a guardian by agreement or court order. If a parent never lived with the child, that parent is not the child’s guardian unless he or she has regularly cared for the child or has been appointed as a guardian in an agreement made with the child’s other guardian(s) or in a court order. To change these arrangements, parents have to reach an agreement or apply to court for an order to change guardianship. Guardianship, parental responsibilities, parenting time, and parenting arrangements are the terms used in the Family Law Act, which does not use the term custody.

Parental responsibilities: The responsibility of guardian(s) to make decisions about the child’s life. These can include decisions about daily care, as well as larger ones about health care, education, religious upbringing, extracurricular activities, etc.

Parenting time: The time that a guardian spends with the child.

Parenting arrangements: The arrangements made for parental responsibilities and parenting time in a court order or agreement between guardians. Parenting arrangements do not include contact.

Contact: The time that a person who is not a guardian spends with the child. This person could be a parent who does not have guardianship or another relative, like a grandparent.

Spouse: There are three kinds of spouses for the parts of the act dealing with children, child support, and spousal support: married people, people who are not married but have lived in a marriage-like relationship for more than two years, and people who have lived together for less than two years but have a child together.

To be continued…

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