BRITISH Columbia families going through separation will soon have more access to parenting supports and courses, as well as continued support for different ways to attend court appearances, as a result of updates to the rules governing family court.
Beginning January 4, 2022, prior to appearing in Provincial Court family matters, participants will be required to take the Parenting After Separation or Parenting After Separation for Indigenous Families course. Currently, this is a requirement in only 21 of the 89 court registries in the province.
These courses help parents to make careful and informed decisions about their separation and offer strategies for keeping the focus on what is best for their child. The free courses are available online and are valuable resources for parents and family members, whether or not the court is involved.
Flexibility for how British Columbians appear in Provincial Court on family law-related matters, which was enhanced during the pandemic, is being extended long-term. Methods of attendance may include in-person, via telephone or video, or other electronic means.
The COVID-19 response resulted in common use of remote appearance options and provided access to improved technology. Continuing this flexibility helps maintain better access to the courts and can ease the effect of travel, time off work and child care on families.
The Province said that families sometimes become involved with multiple parts of the justice system at the same time, particularly in child protection cases when both the child protection system and the family justice system may be involved. Changes have been made to forms and a new Priority Parenting Matter has been added to the list of specific and time-sensitive issues that proceed directly to a judge. These will help identify and prevent delay in resolving cases where a family law order may be able to prevent or end a child being in care and help ensure stability for the child.
These updates to the Provincial Court Family Rules are part of a multi-year project of the Ministry of Attorney General and the Provincial Court to help families experiencing separation and divorce reduce conflict and work toward earlier, more collaborative resolutions, keeping the children’s best interests front and centre. The updates are being made based on feedback received since the introduction of the Provincial Court Family Rules in May 2021.
In addition to these changes to the Provincial Court Family Rules, the Province is working with the Provincial Court to design and launch a pilot project in Kamloops in May 2022 for informal trials for family law matters. The idea behind the informal trial pilot is to create a new trial process where a judge can take a more facilitative role to managing the conduct of the trial to better assist participants, especially those who are representing themselves.
The Province is also updating some family law-related forms, which will be available starting January 4, 2022. The updated forms will allow registry staff to identify the method of attendance for the court appearance, better identify intersecting child protection matters and assist with filing an application at a court registry.