B.C.'s new Family Law Act encourages families going through separation and divorce to consider, where appropriate, out-of-court family dispute resolution options, which are often more affordable than going to court and usually lead to more effective solutions.
B.C.'s new Family Law Act came into effect on March 18 and according to the provincial government, reflects the current needs and changing nature of B.C. families. It protects the best interests of the child when families experience separation and divorce and can help couples resolve their family disputes without having to going to court.
Traditionally, many people have relied on the courts to resolve their family law disagreements. Going to court can be a time-consuming, expensive and stressful experience for families. The new Family Law Act encourages a variety of family dispute resolution options to reach agreements that can help reduce that stress.
Mediation is one of the options available to help families going through the often-difficult process of separation or divorce.
• In mediation, an impartial mediator helps to bring the parties involved in the dispute together and supports them in reaching a solution in a non-confrontational setting.
• Mediation and reaching agreement is encouraged because people who are involved in reaching their own resolutions are more likely to achieve enduring solutions.
• Meditation is generally quicker, less expensive and has less emotional bearing on families. It can help prevent couples from having to go to court.
Parenting coordination is another dispute resolution option for families who are experiencing significant conflict following separation.
• Parenting coordinators are experienced family law lawyers, counsellors, social workers and psychologists who have training in mediating and arbitrating parenting disputes, and in helping separated parents recognize the needs of their children.
• Parenting coordination is a child-focused process that gives parents access to a neutral decision-maker who can resolve day-to-day parenting conflicts as they arise. Parenting coordinators can help couples implement their agreement or order about parenting arrangements, with the goal of minimizing further conflict and additional appearances in court.
Helping to support family dispute resolution processes, the Ministry of Justice provides 24 Family Justice Centres and two Justice Access Centres throughout B.C. They are staffed with highly trained family justice counsellors who provide information, referrals and mediation services to people of modest means to help them resolve their family law problems. Since some families will still prefer to resolve their issues in court, that option remains available to them.
For more information on the Family Law Act and family (or non-court) dispute resolution for families, visit: http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/family-justice/.