What you need to know about separation and divorce in British Columbia:

If you are planning on separating, or should find yourself abandoned or otherwise alone without your spouse, then you will be learning a brand new language in British Columbia. My friend the Family Justice Counsellor said, “Gone are the terms custody and access. Now you will be filing parenting plans. Being a parent will not automatically guarantee you a right to be a guardian either. You must actually spend time with your child or children.”
Guardianship is the new concept, not custody, primary custodial parent, sole custody or shared custody. A guardian has the right to make decisions about the child. These include where the child goes to school or what religion the child will be raised in. Guardians have, what is now called, parental responsibilities and parenting time.

If a parent never lived with the child, that parent is not considered the child’s guardian unless he or she has regularly cared for the child or has been appointed in an agreement made with the child’s other guardian(s) or a court order.

Guardianship, parental responsibilities, parenting time, and parenting arrangements are the new terms used instead of custody.

A spouse is now defined as married people, people who are not married but have lived in a marriage-like relationship for more than two years, and people who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for less than two years but have a child together.

For property and debt, spouses are defined as married spouses, and people who have lived in a marriage-like relationship for more than two years.

All decisions about parenting arrangements and contact in court orders or agreements must now be based on the child’s best interests. This includes, in part, what the child wants and needs; who cared for the child in the past; whether there is a history of family violence, and what the parents are capable of in terms of each one’s ability to carry out his or her responsibilities for the child.

According to my friend, the new legislation strives to give equal emphasis upon agreements and out-of-court solutions and encourages people to settle their family law cases without having to go before a judge.

The 60-40 rule for child support continues – which means that where the child stays in a shared – equal time like situation, then no child support may be paid.

It is, in my opinion, an epic step forward for debt to be acknowledge and shared equally in marriage or marriage-like relationships. However, there are a number of problems with this initiative. More on this later.

Family Justice counsellors in British Columbia are no longer allowed to become involved in property and/or debt issues. These will be referred out to a list of property mediators.

What I worry about is if anyone will be actually negotiating with creditors as this is what really is needed. People need a neutral thirty party to absorb the intensity of the moment and eliminate the harassment. Creditor issues are often complicated and demand a high level of skill and knowledge to resolve.

We should not forget that financial issues are the major cause of marital breakdown and that debt is a big part of this. I am one who believes in families and would like to help families sort out these issues before separation and divorce become necessary…However, if and when this happens, I am also committed to helping families get the financial issues resolved in a fair and positive way.

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