Last week, the government introduced legislation that, if passed, would replace the outdated Family Relations Act which has been around since 1978. Change is needed and change is coming. This legislation will address the issues B.C. families and courts deal with every day.
The Family Law Act clarifies parents’ responsibilities, addresses family violence, and supports families resolving disputes out of court to help relieve our busy legal system. I would argue that the most important part of this new law is that it places the safety and best interests of the child first when families are going through separation and divorce. Children often suffer the most in situations like this so I’m pleased that something is being done to address it, and it has my full support. The new Family Law Act is putting children first by stating that the best interests of the child must be the only consideration when decisions are being made involving the child. Another area this new act addresses is supporting ways parents and families can resolve disputes outside of a courtroom. These supports include mediation, arbitration, parenting coordination, and other agreements. Other areas being revised or recognized include a new tool to help prevent violence within families by implementing a new protection order when violence is an issue. Breaching this protection order will be deemed a criminal offence, further strengthening this protection order and creating a deterrent to possible violent members of a family.
Another important part of a child’s healthy development is spending time with both parents. This act will create a new range of remedies and tools that will ensure parents experience the parenting time they’ve been granted. And again, there are penalties for trying to keep a child from another parent or not complying. The government has been carrying out consultations since 2006 on these proposed changes to B.C.’s family law and I think a great job has been done addressing the challenges and making significant and meaningful changes that will benefit children.
Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin.