Hi there, my name is Krystle Gill, I’m a lawyer with Hart Legal, and thank you for joining us today for one of Hart Legal’s talks. Family Law in British Columbia has changed; one of the most significant changes has to do with how unmarried, or commonlaw, couples are treated under the new laws. As of March 18, 2013, when the new Family Law Act was introduced in British Columbia, if an unmarried couple lives together for two years or more, they now have the same rights upon the relationship breaking down as a married couple would, including rights to equal property division of all assets accumulated during the relationship, subject to some specific exemptions, and spousal support. However, the new act shields property of each spouse brought into the relationship from division between the parties, unless it would be significantly unfair. The new act also encourages out of court dispute resolution, including mediation and family arbitration.
One of the main goals behind the legislation is to divert family law disputes out of the court system, which, by its nature, is quite adversarial, and not always suited to dealing with the emotional nuances of family law disputes. The act also reaffirms the predominate consideration with all matters respecting children, which is the best interests of the child. The act also addresses family debts for the first time, and family violence. The new definition of family violence includes psychological or emotional abuse, as well as physical and sexual abuse. The most likely consequence of the commonlaw provisions within the Family Law Act is that more unmarried couples will turn to co-habitation agreements, in order to determine their rights, if they don’t want the Family Law Act to apply to their relationship, as unmarried couples will have the option to agree to opt-out of the legislation.
If you have questions about how the new Family Law Act will apply to you, contact a family law lawyer in your area. Be sure to join us next time as we continue our series on family law talks on Hart Legal Talks. Thanks, and bye for now.