British Columbia to Divorcing Parents: Play Nice ... or Else
Government officials in the Canadian province are fed up with divorcing couples bickering over property and child custody issues, and they're writing a new Family Law Act that requires people be nice to one another. The new law -- replacing the existing law -- should be in place next year.
The Vancouver Sun reports the act will keep couples out of court over property or custody disputes -- unless the parties can first prove they have tried mediation and other less formal means of resolving their disputes.
The law also would make unmarried couples living together divide their assets fairly and evenly. The Sun reports there's no such requirement under current law.
British Columbia's Family Relations Act is 32 years old. The province's Attorney General Mike de Jong tells the Sun it's basically the rules of boxing for divorce bouts.
"Family law is built around a very adversarial mode," de Jong tells the paper. "And we think there is a better way, when a family changes or a relationship comes apart ... to resolve some of those issues than rushing off to court immediately."
The proposed changes come after four years of reviewing the old law. De Jong tells the paper the changes are "a big deal."
Georgialee Lang, a Vancouver family lawyer who sat on the working group that advised the government on changes, tells the Sun the law changes everything for unmarried couples living together.
In other words, if you and your live-in partner are headed for Splitsville, you might want to hide your Elvis plates from the Franklin Mint.
"Being a common-law spouse now, if these recommendations are enacted, is no longer protection against your property," Lang tells the Sun.
According to the paper, failed relationships account for a quarter of all litigation in the province. Mediation and out-of-court resolution could ease the strain on the legal system, de Jong tells the Sun.
"I've never seen such radical recommendations," Lang adds.
"I think it's part of the whole family law milieu right through North America that people are realizing more than ever that court doesn't work for family situations," she tells the paper. "It's just too adversarial, it's too emotional and probably most importantly, it's way too expensive. It has gotten beyond the reach of the average income earner."
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