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The new Family Law Act: Protection orders and family violence

On November 24, 2011, BC’s new Family Law Act was introduced. It will come into effect March 18, 2013. This act will have wide-reaching effects on family law in the province. Here is a summary of its effect on protection orders and family violence. For more information, see the act itself and our introduction to the act.

Under the new Family Law Act, family violence includes:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • emotional and psychological abuse
  • forcibly confining a person or restricting the person’s freedom
  • withholding the necessities of life

If a person is at risk of family violence, the court may make a protection order. Either the person at risk — or someone else on behalf of the person at risk — can apply for the order.

Protection orders will take the place of restraining orders under the Family Relations Act. Any restraining orders already in effect will continue without change.

Protection orders can limit contact and communication between parties if there is a safety risk. Protection orders can, for example

  • restrict one party from contacting the other
  • stop a specific person from visiting the family home
  • control stalking-type behaviour
  • prevent someone from owning a weapon

If a protection order clashes with another order under the Family Law Act, the protection order takes priority over the other order for as long as there is conflict. For example, you may have a protection order in place that says your ex-partner is not allowed to communicate with you. You may also have a court order that says your ex-partner can have contact with your child. The protection order will overrule the contact order if you have to communicate with each other to arrange for contact.

You can’t use the new act to enforce a protection order. But a breach of a protection order is considered a criminal offence, and the police can enforce it under the Criminal Code.

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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