Family Law Act

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The Family Law Act, SBC 2011, c 25 is a law created by the government of British Columbia that you can find, along with other provincial laws, at the website of the Queen's Printer or on CanLII, a free website that lets you search Canadian laws and court decisions. A handy, downloadable PDF of the law is also available online through a service called Quickscribe. Both married and unmarried couples may apply for orders under this actIntentionally doing a thing; a law passed by a government, also called "legislation" or a "statute." See "regulations.", as well as other people who might have an interest in a childA person who is younger than the legal age of majority, 19 in British Columbia. See "age of majority.", such as a family member of the child.

Section 1 of the Family Law Act defines a child as someone who is under 19 years of age. Section 146 gives a bigger definition for child supportMoney paid by one parent or guardian to another parent or guardian as a contribution to the cost of a child's living expenses., and defines child as including:

a person who is 19 years of age or older and unable, because of illness, disabilityIn law, a legal incapacity to do certain things, like enter into a contract or start a court proceeding. Legal disabilities include insanity and being under the age of majority. See "age of majority." or another reason, to obtain the necessaries of life or withdraw from the charge of his or her parents or guardians

Under Part 3 of the act, a parentIn family law, the natural or adoptive father or mother of a child; may also include stepparents, depending on the circumstances and the applicable legislation; may include the donors of eggs or sperm and surrogate mothers, depending on the circumstances and the terms of any assisted reproduction agreement. See "adoptive parent," "natural parent" and "stepparent." is presumed to be the biological father and the birth mother of a child. However, if assisted reproduction is used, parent can include:

  • up to two people who intend to have the child,
  • a donorA person giving something as a gift or as a bequest, and does so freely and without expectation of payment in return. of sperm and a donor of an egg, and
  • a surrogate mother.

When child support is an issue, parent can include a stepparentThe spouse of a person who has children from a previous relationship. A stepparent may qualify as a "parent" for the purposes of issues relating to child support and the care and control of a child under both the ''Divorce Act'' and the ''Family Law Act''. See "parent" and "spouse.". Section 146 defines a stepparent as:

a person who is a spouseUnder the ''Divorce Act'', either of two people who are married to one another, whether of the same or opposite genders. Under the ''Family Law Act'', married spouses, unmarried parties who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years, and, for all purposes of the act other than the division of property or debt, unmarried parties who have lived together for less than two years but have had a child together. See "marriage" and "marriage-like relationship." of the child's parent and lived with the child's parent and the child during the child's life

Under s. 3, spouse includes:

  • someone who is married to someone else,
  • someone who has lived with someone else in a marriage-like relationshipIn family law, the quality of an unmarried couple's relationship that demonstrates their commitment to each other, their perception of themselves as a couple and their willingness to sacrifice individual advantages for the advantage of themselves as a couple; a legal requirement for a couple to be considered spouses without marrying. See "cohabitation," "marriage" and "spouse." for at least two years,
  • except for the parts of the act about dividing propertySomething which can be owned. See "chattels" and "real property." and debtA sum of money or an obligation owed by one person to another. A "debtor" is a person responsible for paying a debt; a "creditor" is the person to whom the debt is owed., someone who has lived with someone else in a marriage-like relationship for less than two years if they have had a child together, and
  • former spouses.

Under s. 39(1) of the act, a child's guardians are usually the child's parents, as long as they have lived together during the child's life. Under s. 39(3), guardians include:

  • people who are parents because of an assisted reproduction agreement, and
  • parents who never lived with child and other parent, as long as the parent "regularly cares" for the child.

Under the act, someone who is a parent or guardian can be required to pay child support. Someone who is a guardian has “parental responsibilitiesA term under the ''Family Law Act'' which describes the various responsibilities exercised by guardians in the care, upbringing and management of the children in their care, including determining the child's education, diet, religious instruction or lack thereof, medical care, linguistic and cultural instruction, and so forth. See "guardian."” for the child and has “parenting timeA term under the ''Family Law Act'' which describes the time a guardian has with a child and during which is responsible for the day to day care of the child. See "guardian."” with the child. Someone who is not a guardianA person charged with the legal care of someone under a legal disability. A term under the ''Family Law Act'' referring to a person, including a parent, who is responsible for the care and upbringing of a child through the exercise of parental responsibilities. See "disability," "parental responsibilities" and "parenting time.", has “contactA term under the ''Family Law Act'' that describes the visitation rights of a person who is not a guardian with a child. Contact may be provided by court order or by the agreement among the child's guardians who have parental responsibility for determining contact. See "guardian" and "parental responsibilities."” with the child.

A spouse can be entitled to get spousal supportMoney paid by one spouse to another spouse either as a contribution toward the spouse's living expenses or to compensate the spouse for the economic consequences of decisions made by the spouses during their relationship. from another spouse. Only spouses who are married or who have lived in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years are entitled to share family propertyA term under the ''Family Law Act'' referring to property acquired by either or both spouses during their relationship and after separation, if bought with family property. Both spouses are presumed to be equally entitled to share in family property. See "excluded property." and are responsible for family debtA term under the ''Family Law Act'' referring to debt owed by either or both spouses that accumulated during the spouses' relationship and after separation, if used to maintain family property. Both spouses are presumed to be equally liable for family debt..

The Family Law Act covers these subjects:

  • parentage of children and assisted reproduction,
  • guardianship of children,
  • parental responsibilities and parenting time,
  • contact with a child,
  • child support and spousal support,
  • dividing property and debt,
  • orders to protect people, and
  • orders to protect property.

JP Boyd on Family Law provides extensive coverage of the Family Law Act, including a chapter on Family Law Act Basics.

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