On November 14, 2011, BC's Attorney General introduced Bill 16, a bill that proposed fundamental changes family law in BC. The act came into force on March 18, 2013 (BC Reg. 131/2012), replacing the Family Relations Act, RSBC 1996, c. 128. that was first passed in 1978.
The Family Law Act focuses on the safety and best interests of the child when families are going through separation and divorce. It also clarifies parental responsibilities and the division of assets if relationships break down, addresses family violence and encourages families to resolve their disputes out of court
This page was created to answer some common questions.
The Family Law Act received Royal Assent on November 24, 2011 but the majority of the act was brought into force on March 18, 2013 by BC Reg. 131/2012. The commencement provisions, listed by section, can be found in section 482 of the Act. You will see from this section that the legislature intended for most of the sections to come into force by regulation of the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
The sections of the Act that came into force upon Royal Assent were:
- repeal of section 90 [obligation to support parent] of the Family Relations Act (via section 258 of the Family Law Act);
- repeal of section 120.1 [property agreements] of the Family Relations Act (via section 258 of the Family Law Act).
Other changes to a number of B.C. acts where brought into force upon Royal Assent in order to update the terms used when discussing spouses to use gender-neutral terms.
- the terms “husband” and “wife” were changed to “spouse” in the Evidence Act, the Family Relations Act, the Industrial Roads Act, the Insurance (Vehicle) Act, the Land (Spouse Protection) Act, the Law and Equity Act, the Marriage Act, the Members' Conflict of Interest Act, the Property Law Act, the Rent Distress Act, the School Act, the Wills Act, and the Workers Compensation Act.
- References to "father" and "mother" are changed to "parent" in the Mental Health Act, the Property Transfer Tax Act, the School Act, and the Workers Compensation Act.
- Other minor amendments less susceptible to generalization are made to the Adoption Act and the Name Act
There are two regulations, the Family Law Act Regulation (BC Reg #347/2012) and the Division of Pensions Regulation (BC Reg #348/2012). They were deposited on November 26, 2012 and came into effect on March 18, 2013 along with the Family Law Act.
- set minimum training and practice standards for family dispute resolution professionals (family mediators, parenting coordinators and family arbitrators) and
- replace the regulations made under the Family Relations Act with respect to the Child Support Guidelines Regulation and the Child Support Recalculation Pilot Project Regulation and pension division.
Chief Justice Bauman has issued one new Supreme Court Civil Practice Direction and four new Supreme Court Family Practice Directions as a result of the coming into force of the Family Law Act.
- PD-42 replaces PD-34, and it authorizes masters to issue a number of interim orders provided for under the Family Law Act.
- FPD-9 replaces FPD-5
- FPD-10 replaces FPD-7
- FPD-11 replaces FPD-8
- FPD-12 replaces FPD-4
An updated Cumulative Index for practice directions and administrative notices can be found on the courts website.
All of the new practice directions come into force on March 18, 2013.
You can see how the bill proceeded through the legislature by using the table on this Progress of Bills page (just scroll to Bill 16) on the Legislative Assembly of BC website.
If you want a closer look, you can look at the Votes and Proceedings page for day-by-day breakdowns of legislative activity.
The Act contains transitional provisions in Part 13 that dealt with matters that were before the courts such as restraining orders and payment of pension.
The Ministry of Justice has published a Table of Concordance for the Family Law Act that lists which Family Relations Act provisions have been carried forward, in all or in part, into the Family Law Act.
There were four BC Law Institute Reports incorporated into the new bill (and are also available online):
- Report on Pension Division on Marriage Breakdown. BCLI Report No. 44, 2006. Updates of this report are available from 2015-2016 and 2017
- Report on the Parental Support Obligation in Section 90 of the Family Relations Act. BCLI Report No. 48, 2007.
- Report on Appointing a Guardian and Standby Guardianship. BCLI Report No. 30, 2004.
- Report on the Need for Uniform Jurisdiction and Choice of Law Rules in Domestic Property Proceedings. BCLI Report No. 1, 1998.
- BC Law Institute, 2013. Questions and Answers About Pension Division on the Breakdown of a Relationship in British Columbia.
- BC Law Institute, 2015-2016. Questions and Answers About Pension Division on the Breakdown of a Relationship in British Columbia (2015-2016)
- BC Law Institute, 2019. Pension Division Review Project
- Clicklaw Wiki. JP Boyd on Family Law, 2017.
- Justice Review Task Force’s, Family Justice Reform Working Group, 2005 report, A New Justice System for Children and Families. (Also available in the Vancouver courthouse library)
- Ministry of Attorney General, Justice Services Branch, Civil and Family Law Policy Office, 2007, Discussion papers: Chapters 1 - 14
- Ministry of Attorney General, Justice Services Branch, Civil and Family Law Policy Office, 2009, Family Relations Act Review: Report of Public Consultations.
- Ministry of the Attorney General, Justice Services Branch, Civil and Family Law Policy Office, 2010, White Paper on Family Relations Act Reform: Proposals for a new Family Law Act.
posted October 29, 2012
updated August 2, 2019