Friday, December 14, 2012

Family Law Act (FLA), Regulations & Resources

On March 18, 2013 the new Family Law Act (FLA) will come into full force. Resources and training are being offered by a variety of sources. 

The Family Law Act (FLA)

The Family Law Act Explained

Part 1 - Interpretation 

Part 2 – Resolution of Family Law Disputes 

Part 3 - Parentage 

Part 4 – Care and Time with Children 

Part 5 - Property 

Part 6 – Pension Division 

Part 7 – Child and Spousal Support 

Part 8 - Children’s Property 

Part 9 - Protection from Family Violence 

Part 10 – Court Processes 

Part 11 - Search Officers 

Part 12 – Regulations  

Guide to the New BC Family Law Act

Legal Services Society.

This guide introduces the new act, which comes into effect on March 18, 2013. It includes information about:
  • family law language changes,
  • making agreements to stay out of court,
  • dispute resolution,
  • parenting arrangements,
  • child and spousal support,
  • dividing property and debt,
  • family law protection orders, and
  • moving with children.
It also contains a glossary of definitions for many of the new and changed family law terms and a useful resources section.

Coming soon in simplified and traditional Chinese, French (online only), Punjabi, and Spanish.

Order your print copy now or download the guide from our publications page.

Dye and Durham - Information from a webinar

1) Paramount Considerations/Goals in Drafting Legislation & Changes Already In Place;
2) Family Dispute Resolution;
3) “Best Interests of the Child” as they relate to Mobility (Relocation) Rights;
4) Family Violence;
5) Property Division “Significantly Unfair”;
6) Support;
7) Procedural Rule/Form Changes; and
8) Appearance Tips.

Family Law Act: New Resource for Justice System Workers and Advocates 
J.P. Boyd
I've put together an overview (PDF) of the new Family Law Act for people who work in the justice system and legal advocates.

The current version is dated 7 November 2012 (previous version - 3 November 2012); please download the updated document (PDF).

The new Family Law Act regulations

Family Law Act Regulations Explained

Part 1 - Interpretation 

Part 2 – Family Justice Counsellors 

Part 3 -Family Dispute Resolution Professionals 

Part 4 – Child Support Guidelines 

Part 5 - Child Support Recalculation 

Part 6 – Prescribed information, forms and fees

The Family Law Act Pension regulations set out the requirements for dividing a pensions under Part 6 of the Act, including the forms a spouse must use, the pension plan administrators’ duties to provide information to the member and spouse, and the formulas to be used to calculate a spouse’s share of the member’s pension. 

These regulations will take effect on March 18, 2013, the same day as the new Family Law Act, with the exception of the training and standards provisions, which come into force on January 1, 2014. The Family Law Act regulations will replace all Family Relations Act regulations.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

U.S. Congress could outlaw 'stalking apps' used by jealous spouses quietly tracking cellphone users


Richard Lardner, The Associated Press, December 13, 2012.


WASHINGTON - For around $50, a jealous wife or husband can download software that can continuously track the whereabouts of a spouse better than any private detective. It's frighteningly easy and effective in an age when nearly everyone carries a cellphone that can record every moment of a person's physical movements. But it soon might be illegal.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was expected Thursday to approve legislation that would close a legal loophole that allows so-called cyberstalking apps to operate secretly on a cellphone and transmit the user's location information without a person's knowledge.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., would update laws passed years before wireless technology revolutionized communications. Telephone companies currently are barred from disclosing to businesses the locations of people when they make a traditional phone call. But there's no such prohibition when communicating over the Internet. If a mobile device sends an email, links to a website or launches an app, the precise location of the phone can be passed to advertisers, marketers and others without the user's permission.

The ambiguity has created a niche for companies like Retina Software, which makes ePhoneTracker and describes it as "stealth phone spy software."

"Suspect your spouse is cheating?" the company's website says. "Don't break the bank by hiring a private investigator."

An emailed statement from Retina Software said the program is for the lawful monitoring of a cellphone that the purchaser of the software owns and has a right to monitor. If there is evidence the customer doesn't own the phone, the account is closed, the company said. The program is not intended or marketed for malicious purposes, the statement said.

But Franken and supporters of his bill said there is no way to ensure the rules are followed. These programs can be installed in moments, perhaps while the cellphone's actual owner is sleeping or in the shower. The apps operate invisibly to the cellphone's user. They can silently record text messages, call logs, physical locations and visits to websites. All the information is relayed to an email address chosen by the installer.

Victim's advocacy groups said Franken's bill is a common-sense step to curb stalking and domestic violence by weakening a tool that gives one person power over another.

"It's really, really troubling that an industry would see an opportunity to make money off of strengthening someone's opportunity to control and threaten another individual," said Karen Jarmoc, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

A domestic violence case in St. Louis County, Minn., helped persuade Franken to introduce his bill. A woman had entered a county building to meet with her advocate when she received a text message from her abuser asking her why she was there, according to congressional testimony delivered last year by the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Frightened, she and her advocate went to the local courthouse to file for a protective order. She got another text demanding to know why she was at the courthouse. They later determined her abuser was tracing her movements with an app that had been placed on her cellphone. The woman was not identified by name in the congressional testimony.

Franken's proposal would make companies subject to civil liability if they fail to secure permission before obtaining location information from a person's cellphone and sharing it with anyone else. They also would be liable if they fail to tell a user no later than seven days after the service begins that the program is running on their phone. Companies would face a criminal penalty if they knowingly operate an app with the intent to facilitate stalking.

The bill includes an exception to the permission requirement for parents who want to place tracking software on the cellphones of minor children without them being aware it is there.

An organization representing software companies opposes Franken's bill because it said the user consent requirement would curb innovation in the private sector without adequately addressing the problem of cyberstalking. Voluntary but enforceable codes of conduct for the industry are more effective methods for increasing transparency and consumer confidence, said David LeDuc, senior director for public policy at the Software & Information Industry Association.
Senate Judiciary Committee:



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Imagining Courts that Work for Women Survivors of Violence.

Pivot Legal Society

This morning, we joined forces with Atira Women’s Resource Society, Battered Women’s Support Services, The YWCA of Metro Vancouver, Kiwassa NeighbourhoodDSC_0183.jpg House and WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre to launch our latest report: Imagining Courts that Work for Women Survivors of Violence.

This report is the result of a multi-year collaboration among the women who participate in Pivot’s Jane Doe Advocate’s group, which meets monthly to network, participate in legal education and to work on access to justice issues impacting vulnerable women. The catalyst for this project was an informal conversation at one of our meetings about whether specialized courts could better meet the needs of the women we work with.

Today’s report lays out concerns with the current criminal justice system response to violence against women, but the real focus of this project is on imagining an DSC_0102.jpgachievable alternative for British Columbia. None of the concerns raised in our research were unique to British Columbia, so we were able to evaluate a broad range of program and practice solutions from other jurisdictions in our quest for solutions.

In the report we make the case that BC is falling behind other jurisdictions when it comes to innovation in the area of violence against women. With the exception of a small pilot program in Duncan, British Columbia is one of the few jurisdictions in Canada without specialized courts mandated to hear cases involving violence against women in relationships.

BC is at a critical juncture on the path to developing an effective system response to violence against women. We didn’t plan it this way, but we are excited to be launching this report in the midst of the BC Justice Reform Initiative and less than two months after the new Provincial Office of Domestic Violence released its preliminary action plan.

There have already been calls for specialized courts in British Columbia, including from the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth and, more recently, from Geoffrey Cowper who suggests specialized courts in his report commissioned by the Minister of Justice as part of the BC Justice Reform Initiative.

Our research highlights the diversity of specialized court models and demonstrates that the most successful specialized courts rely heavily on partnerships with women-serving agencies that have a deep understanding of the dynamics of violence against women. As relative latecomers to the discussion on specialized courts, I believe we have an opportunity to draw on the best aspects of specialized courts in other jurisdictions in order to create the most effective justice system response to gendered violence in this county. In order to seize that opportunity we now begin the difficult work of turning a report into action.

We have sent copies of this report to the Minister of Justice and to the new Provincial Domestic Violence Office. Along with copies of the report, we have extended an invitation to government to meet with us to talk about the way forward. In so doing, we are presenting government with an opportunity to make the most of the Justice Reform Initiative by developing partnerships with women’s organizations and community-based agencies that have a wealth of expertise to contribute to project of ‘modernizing’ BC's justice system and creating courts that work for women survivors of violence.

Darcie Bennett
Campaigns director, Pivot Legal Society

P.S. Read the whole report by clicking here.
Our mailing address is: 121 Heatley Ave, Vancouver, BC V6A 3E9, Canada
Copyright (C) 2012 Pivot Legal Society All rights reserved.

Love Doesn't Hurt: Family Violence & How Kids Can Get Help

Love Doesn't Hurt 
Public Service Announcement Featuring Ryan Kesler 

Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks is featured in a new Public Service Announcement aimed at breaking the silence on children's exposure to violence against women.

All children have a right to be safe. If violence is happening in your home, know that:
• Violence Is Not Your Fault
• You are Not Alone
• There are People Who Can Help

For more information go to



For help call the Children's Helpline: 1-800-668-6868

Call the Representative for Children & Youth,
or visit the website link here: 


The Rep and her team of advocates makes sure that young people under the age of 19 who are receiving services from the government, including children and youth in care, are treated fairly and have their voices heard. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Transforming Our Future: Public Legal Education Advocacy Workshop

West Coast LEAF is excited to offer a Transforming Our Future workshop in Surrey at the end of November Transforming Our Future is a two-day practical public legal education course designed for activists, advocates, and community service providers to learn about the Canadian justice system, human rights law, equality rights, and how to develop legal strategies to address the impact of systemic discrimination. 

When: Monday, November 26th and Tuesday, November 27th 10:00 am – 4:30 pm

Where: Room 418, Surrey City Centre Library (10350 University Drive, Surrey – at the Surrey Central Skytrain station)

Cost: $100 – Subsidies available upon request – please contact Deanna at or 604-684-8772 ext. 114 for more information

The goal of Transforming Our Future is to provide community advocates and activists with a strong understanding of how to use and implement legal strategies for dealing with some of the systemic issues that you deal with on a day-to-day basis. It also, and perhaps what I found most useful when I took it for the first time, provides a thorough overview of the justice system in Canada. The program is very hands on and learning is mostly done through activities. The program provides attendees with two guide books as well as a training booklet that will help them in bringing their learning back to the organization and sharing their knowledge with others. 

If you are a Law Foundation funded advocate, course fees can be a part of your professional development benefits. Please contact the Law Foundation of BC for more information.

West Coast Women's Legal Education & Action Fund
555 - 409 Granville Street, Vancouver, BC V6C 1T2
tel: 604.684.8772 ext.112 fax 604.684.1543 toll free in BC: 1.866.737.7716
West Coast LEAF's mandate is to achieve equality by changing historic patterns of systemic discrimination against women through BC-based equality rights litigation, law reform and public legal education. Please invest in women’s equality by making a tax-deductible donation at:

Although we do our best to keep up to date on legal developments, since the law changes so often, West Coast LEAF cannot guarantee the legal accuracy or completeness of the contents of this email. Any information provided is for general knowledge only. It is not meant to be used as legal advice for specific legal problems. If you need legal help, please contact a lawyer or advocate.

Don’t miss our fabulous fundraiser: an exclusive performance of Dickens’ Women at The Cultch on November 14 2012.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New Family Law Resource on Separation Agreements

West Coast LEAF is proud to announce our recent publication entitled "Separation Agreements: Your Right to Fairness". 

This plain language family law resource gives a general overview of the financial issues surrounding separation, ranging from preparing a financial statement to when it might be possible to apply to the courts to change or cancel a separation agreement. This 12 page booklet is intended for anyone interested in learning more about the financial issues surrounding separation.

The booklet can be downloaded free of charge from our website, and is part of a larger three year project that aims to enhance women's knowledge of their rights in family law. The project stems from our successful intervention at the Supreme Court of Canada in the Rick v Brandsema case. In that case, the parties entered a separation agreement that left Mr. Brandsema with substantially more assets than Ms. Rick after 27 years of marriage. The Supreme Court of Canada found that the parties' separation agreement was unfair and invalid because Mr. Brandsema exploited Ms. Rick's vulnerabilities and purposely misled her about the state of their financial affairs.

After Rick v Brandsema concluded, West Coast LEAF received numerous calls from women and advocates faced with the challenge of needing the courts to review unfair separation agreements. For these women, legal representation is often unaffordable and inaccessible, particularly since family law legal aid is very rarely available in BC for such an issue.

We believe that the most effective ways to address the pressing need for legal representation for women in our current legal aid climate is to enhance community-based legal services and provide educational opportunities for advocates on important issues concerning women's rights in family law. We are currently developing workshops for advocates and service providers to help deepen their understanding of separation agreements, to assist them in walking women through "Separation Agreements: Your Right to Fairness", and answer commonly asked questions that might arise. We intend to begin delivering these workshops around the province in the second half of 2012.

West Coast LEAF’s mission is to achieve equality by changing historic
patterns of systemic discrimination against women through BC-based
equality rights litigation, law reform and public legal education.

New Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) Safety Resources from Legal Services Society

Legal Services Society

A Lawyer's Guide to Relationship Violence

·       A resource for lawyers and advocates which describes relationship violence, signs of abuse, and risk factors. It also provides information about safety planning and where your clients can get help, and also direction as to where one can find more information and resources.

Two new “Live Safe – End Abuse” fact sheets


Negotiating Domestic Violence: An Exploratory Study

Operations Support Officer, Langley RCMP Detachment, Langley, BC, for the Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia, May 2011. © Richard Konarski.


Monday, September 24, 2012

More on Sec. 15/211 reports & the new Family Law Act

Judges are at the mercy of the experts: 
BC group raises alarms over how reports in child-custody cases are prepared
Jeremy Hainsworth, Sept. 7, 2012, Lawyers Weekly.

Change aim is to unclog the courts
Lawyers to act as family mediators, parenting coordinators 
Jeremy Hainsworth, Sept. 7, 2012, Lawyers Weekly.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Custody and Access Assessments in BC: Insufficient Guidelines & Inconsistent Reports

What is a Section 15 Report?
Section 15 reports are child custody and access assessments examine each parents’ parenting ability/capacity and the nature and quality of the relationship with the children, as well as what is happening in the lives of the kids. This report may be used by the Court to make a decision about custody and access. (See below for the current legislation in force and new legislation that will be coming into force). 
The evaluator interviews parents, the children (if old enough) and others provided as collateral contacts by the parents. The assessor should also review any documents the parents have available, such as court documents, developmental and other assessments and reports for the children and parents (if available) and any other pertinent documents, such as child protection investigations and police reports. Observations of the children with both parents is also an important part of the process.
Some evaluators (psychologists) may test parents using psychological assessment tools, such as personality testing. There is little, if any, evidence-based research that validates the use of assessment tools in custody and access family law cases. Here and here discuss research that has examined this.    
All of this information is used to form an expert opinion and recommendations from the evaluator of the best interests of the child, which is the paramount consideration of Sec. 15 reports.  
*** Disclosure. As a forensic social worker I provide Sec. 15 reports and critiques to the court in BC. I have been involved in the report Troubling Assessments: Custody and Access Reports and their Equality Implications for BC Women
West Coast LEAF
News Alert
July 24, 2012
West Coast LEAF logo
New study by West Coast LEAF
Troubling Assessments: Custody and Access Reports and their Equality Implications for BC Women
Imagine leaving a marriage after years of physical and emotional abuse, only to have a psychologist disbelieve your story and recommend custody of your kids to your ex. Imagine inviting a stranger into your home during one of the most stressful and difficult times in your life, in order for them to assess your parenting skills. Imagine being in court without a lawyer and trying to cross-examine a psychologist on their assessment of your mental health, or having a custody assessor criticize you for your cultural traditions. These are some of the experiences women shared with West Coast LEAF regarding their experiences going through custody and access assessments in family law cases.

West Coast LEAF has published a new study on what are commonly referred to as 'Section 15 reports' conducted by psychologists and other professionals in contentious custody battles. The study finds that there are no consistent standards for how Section 15 reports should be prepared, and no mandatory training for some of the assessors. The result is inconsistency, a perception of bias in some reports, and a common over-reliance by the courts on reports that may not take adequate account of important issues, including violence against women and children. Other issues that arose throughout our research and consultations include the costs of the reports, confidentiality, language barriers, the effects of cultural differences, and the lack of legal aid to assist parties to navigate these difficult cases. 

West Coast LEAF hopes that this study will encourage the BC government and the BC College of Psychologists to implement specific standardized training and specific binding objectives for assessors on the dynamics of family violence and cultural sensitivity.

To find out more about this issue in BC and the necessary steps West Coast LEAF proposes to alleviate it, see our full report, Troubling Assessments: Custody and Access Reports and their Equality Implications for BC Women.

Media & Information

Current legislation

15  (1) In a proceeding under this Act, the court may, on application, including an application made without notice to any other person, direct an investigation into a family matter by a person who

(a) has had no previous connection with the parties to the proceeding or to whom each party consents, and
(b) is a family counsellor, social worker or other person approved by the court for the purpose.

(2) A person directed to carry out an investigation under subsection (1) must report the results of the investigation in the manner that the court directs.

(3) A person must not report to a court the result of an investigation under subsection (1) unless, at least 30 days before the report is to be given to the court, the person serves a copy of the report on every party to the proceeding.

(4) If satisfied that circumstances warrant, the court may grant an exemption from subsection (3).

Blog post: Section 15 Reports

A s.15 was recently ordered for my daughters father and I. I am trying to educate myself on what to expect. I have found lots of tips, advice and opinions on the matter but no where have I found any clear guidelines/rules/rights of/for the parents. could you please direct me to such resources?

I don't believe that any such resource exists. There are cases where the court talks about the obligations of the person preparing the report in terms of fair, scientific processes (the College of Psychologists has ethical guidelines for assessors as well), but there's no independent statement of parents' rights and responsibilities that I'm aware of.


Bias Against Abused Mothers in Child Custody Cases: Report

New study finds systemic problems in parental capacity assessments discriminate against women.
By Katie Hyslop, Today, 

Often a useful tool for getting a third-party, outsider's view of parenting abilities, the report found they could also be biased against and dangerous for vulnerable women with abusive ex-partners. 

While there are specific guidelines to follow for family counsellors and social workers regarding family violence and the use of these reports, psychologists in B.C. have no such criteria. In addition, judges often take assessors' advice at face value, and limited access to legal aid in B.C. prevents many women from challenging assessments they view as biased.

Kasari Govender, West Coast LEAF executive director: "The key is the systemic concerns we have: the lack of training for some assessors on the dynamics of violence, specifically violence against women and violence within intimate relationships, (and) cultural diversity and judging parental ability across cultural divides and the problems that can arise there."

But it shouldn't just be up to lawyers to fight against individual reports, said forensic social worker Tracey Young, who is also quoted in the report. There should be province-wide oversight of reports to ensure parents -- both male and female -- are treated fairly by these assessments.

"There really is nobody monitoring or keeping track of this," said Young, who worked in child welfare from 2002 to 2009. 

"I think that was one of the really important parts that came out of the report, is I think that there's not consistency across the board, there's no set of practice guidelines for whichever clinicians are doing this."


Another comment from JP Boyd's Family Law Resource blog:

We just went through this process and I was incredibly disappointed by it. We have 60/40 right now (60 for me, 40 for his dad). The report said it should be 50/50, however, The psychologist had no due diligence. My ex would say something and he'd take it as gospel. Didn't ask me, didn't ask our doctor. He spend a total of 45 minutes observing me and my son in which time there was a 911 call across the street. This resulted in my son and I standing on the side walk looking at the firetruck with neighbours for at least 20 mins of the 45 he was there. He saw my ex and our son twice. The report was bias beyond what I thought was even possible, all because he didn't check his facts. It is riddled with half truths. How do I start the process of challenging it? We are hoping to stay out of court.

New Legislation - gradually in effect over the next 6 to 12 months

Family Law Act (2011). Sec. 211: Orders respecting reports
211  (1) A court may appoint a person to assess, for the purposes of a proceeding under Part 4 [Care of and Time with Children], one or more of the following:

(a) the needs of a child in relation to a family law dispute;
(b) the views of a child in relation to a family law dispute;
(c) the ability and willingness of a party to a family law dispute to satisfy the needs of a child.

(2) A person appointed under subsection (1)

(a) must be a family justice counsellor, a social worker or another person approved by the court, and
(b) unless each party consents, must not have had any previous connection with the parties.
(3) An application under this section may be made without notice to any other person.
(4) A person who carries out an assessment under this section must
(a) prepare a report respecting the results of the assessment,
(b) unless the court orders otherwise, give a copy of the report to each party, and
(c) give a copy of the report to the court.
(5) The court may allocate among the parties, or require one party alone to pay, the fees relating to an assessment under this section.