BC has updated its provincial family court rules to help divorcing families reduce conflict, find more collaborative solutions, and increase focus on the needs of children. The new rules apply to matters involving guardianship, shared parenting arrangements and contact, child and spousal support, protection orders, and more.
The rules, which came into effect earlier this year, are part of a larger, multi-year project that provides additional community resources and dispute resolution options for families, especially for those who are self-representing at court. Before filing an application, families may be asked to undergo a family needs assessment, consensual dispute resolution, and/or parenting education. For example, parents filing Family Law Act applications at all provincial registries must now participate in a Parenting After Separation or Parenting After Separation for Indigenous Families course. This free online course is designed to help parents navigate the separation process, make informed decisions, and develop strategies that focus on the best interests of their children.
Separating families who plan to go to court will now be required to attend a “family management conference” overseen by a judge who will attempt to facilitate the resolution of one or more issues before trial. During this conference, the judge may issue a court order or, at minimum, help to facilitate trial preparation.
Additional changes to court rules include increased flexibility for appearing in court and allowing virtual attendance via phone, video, or other electronic devices. This change, a result of the COVID-19 pandemic response, makes it easier for families to attend court with minimal impact on work and family life, especially for those who do not live near a town center.
The introduction of a Priority Parenting Matter will help the courts identify and prioritize urgent matters. A short explanation is here.
Changes have also been made to court registry information pages, forms, and step-by-step guides to make them easier for self-representing parents to fill out.
If you need assistance or have questions, please contact Jenna Davis, family law lawyer at HSJ.