Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The New British Columbia Family Law Act

The law in British Columbia about how family law issues are resolved is about to drastically change.  The new Family Law Act comes into force in March 2013.  Starting in March 2013, family lawyers will be called “Family Dispute Resolution Professionals” or FDR Professionals.   Other professionals, such as counsellors, can also be FDR Professionals under the new legislation, and thereby take on a role in the dispute resolution process formerly occupied only by lawyers.  The new Family Law Act actually spells out that “Resolution Out of Court is Preferred”! Lawyers will be obligated to set out to the client the alternatives to going to court, and what resources are available to the client locally, and then to provide a Certificate showing that he or she has so advised the client, before that lawyer can commence a court action for that client. The new Family Law Act codifies many of the principles of collaborative practice as set out by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.  This is a giant leap in the right direction to protect children of uncoupling parents from harm, and to encourage and foster peace and understanding between uncoupling parties.  This legislation is in stark contrast to the current common practice of going to court to have each party attempt to prove the other wrong.  The new Family Law Act recognizes that often the non-legal issues, that is, the emotions or psychological issues, are really fueling the dispute, not the legal issues.  Best of all, the new Family Law Act encourages a team approach to dispute resolution in family law cases in British Columbia.  Halleluiah.  This has been a long time coming.  I look forward to seeing how this huge change in British Columbia family law is going to play itself out.