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The new Family Law Act: The Divorce Act and when the language will not change

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 when the language used in family law will remain the same. For more information, see the Family Law Act itself and our introduction to the act, as well as the Divorce Act.

While the new Family Law Act (FLA) may have abandoned the terms “custody” and “access” in favour of less adversarial labels, that doesn’t mean that those terms have gone away.

The current BC Family Relations Act, which is being replaced by the FLA, uses the words guardianship, custody, and access when talking about parenting arrangements. The Divorce Act (DA), which governs divorce, also talks about custody and access. The new FLA will replace these terms with others: guardianship, parenting arrangements, parental responsibilities, parenting time, and contact (see our previous entry for more information). This means that the FLA and DA will be using different words for similar concepts.

The two acts overlap in some areas but not others. The DA applies to married couples only, while the FLA can apply to both married and unmarried couples. Depending on what you want to do, you may be able to address your issue with either the FLA or the DA. Solving issues with the FLA means you could go to either Supreme or Provincial Court, while using the DA allows you to go only to Supreme Court. Each court has different procedures, costs, and time frames.

When the new act goes into effect, we’ll update our online fact sheets Choosing a court and Which laws apply to your case (on the Family Law website). Stay tuned!

Our thanks to JP Boyd for providing the background for this series. You can find more information on the new Family Law Act, as well as other family law issues, at his BC Family Law Resource Blog.

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