Surprise, you’re married

On March 18, 2013, the new provincial Family Law Act (FLA) replaced the B.C. Family Relations Act of 1978.

On March 18, 2013, the new provincial Family Law Act (FLA) replaced the B.C. Family Relations Act of 1978.

According to Vancouver family-law lawyer and legal blogger, John-Paul Boyd, when the new act came into effect it became retroactively applicable to all proceedings before either the Provincial or Supreme courts.

This includes any trials that were started before March 18, but which have continued past that date. An exception are trials before the Supreme Court that were started before March 18, but were about property matters.

The new act prioritizes the interests of children when it comes to resolving family law disputes.

“[T]he FLA expressly states that, when making decisions involving children, the best interest of the child should be the only consideration,” said B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond when the new legislation was introduced on Nov. 14, 2011.

An implication of this focus on the best interests of the child means that child support payments will take precedence over spousal support payments.

“A payor’s obligation to pay child support will continue to take priority over any obligation to pay spousal support, meaning that if a payor can’t pay both amounts only child support will be payable,” said Boyd.

According to Boyd, the definition of a spouse in terms of spousal support has been expanded to include, “people who used to be married, unmarried people living together for more than two years in a marriage-like relationship, and unmarried people who have lived together for less than two years but have had a child together.”

Other implications of the new act will affect the distribution of property in the case of a breakdown of a common-law relationship.

“The new scheme for property division will apply to married spouses as well as unmarried people who have lived together for more than two years,” said Boyd. “This is a really important feature of the new law because unmarried couples are cut out of the parts of the [old ] Family Relations Act which divide property between married spouses, largely leaving unmarried people stuck with difficult and often unsatisfactory claims based on unjust enrichment and trust law.”

Boyd’s BC Family Law Resource Blog is found at http://bcfamilylawresource.blogspot.ca/p/family-law-act-information-resources.html