Family Law Act

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The Family Law Act is BC’s primary private family law statute and impacts virtually all areas of family justice in the province.  It replaced the Family Relations Act on March 18, 2013.

The act:

  • Places the safety and best interests of the child first when families are going through separation and divorce,
  • Clarifies parental responsibilities and the division of assets if relationships break down
  • Addresses family violence
  • Encourages families to resolve their disputes out of court

The regulations for the Family Law Act:

  • Set minimum training and practice standards for family dispute resolution professionals, including:
    • family mediators
    • family arbitrators
    • parenting coordinators
  • Incorporate Federal Child Support Guidelines for use under the act. This includes authority for the operation of the Ministry’s Child Support Recalculation Service.

There is also a Division of Pension Regulation.

Highlights of the Family Law Act

The Family Law Act makes the best interests of the child the only consideration when decisions affecting the child are made. The best interests of the child test includes:

  • The history of care of the child
  • The impact of family violence on the child’s safety, security or well-being
  • The child’s views, unless it would be inappropriate to consider them, and
  • Any civil or criminal proceedings relevant to the child’s safety and well-being

Settling disputes out of court

The Family Law Act supports ways for parents to resolve family matters outside of the courtroom where appropriate, through agreements, mediation, parenting co-ordination and arbitration.

Addresses family violence

The act supports the ability of the court to deal with family violence by:

  • Defining family violence
  • Legislating risk factors considered in parenting cases involving violence, and
  • Making the safety of children a key goal of the best interests of the child test

Protection orders

Family Law Act Protection Orders:

  • Can be used to limit contact and communication between family members where there is a safety risk. 
  • May include any term needed to protect an at-risk family member, including:
    • Seizing weapons from the person responsible for the violence, or
    • Removing the person from the family residence.  

The ministry continues to review and improve the effective use of protection orders.


Breaches of protection orders under both the Family Law Act and the Child, Family and Community Services Act are a criminal offence. This ensures there is a consistent and effective approach in cases where safety is at risk.

Time with a child

The Family Law Act helps ensure children have time with their parents by creating a range of remedies and tools for non-compliance. They ensure parents receive – and follow through on – parenting time they are given.

The remedies and tools non-compliance include:

  • Participation in family dispute resolution or counselling
  • Reimbursement of expenses such as travel, child care, lost wages by the parent unable to have time with the child
  • Payment of a fine by the parent denying the time

Property division

Under the Family Law Act, property falls into two categories for purposes of property division:

Property division applies to married spouses and to unmarried spouses who have lived in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years.

Family property

Family property is presumed to be equally divided. Excluded property is generally not divided. 

Family property includes all property owned by one or both spouses at the date of separation unless the asset is excluded. If an asset is excluded, only the increase in the value of the asset during the relationship is divisible.

Excluded property

Excluded property includes property such as pre-relationship property and inheritances. Generally, these will not be divided.

Determining parentage

The Family Law Act includes a framework for determining a child’s legal parents, including where assisted reproduction is used.