B.C. parents separating will soon need to take course before appearing in court

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The provincial government says B.C. parents going through separation will soon have access to more parenting supports, as a result of changes to the province’s family court rules.

Starting Jan. 4, 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, according to a release from the province. Currently the free course is a requirement in only 21 of B.C.’s 89 court registries.

“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,” reads the release.

The province also announced that people can continue to appear in provincial family court via telephone or video. The option was introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic and was extended long-term.

“Continuing this flexibility helps maintain better access to the courts and can ease the effect of travel, time off work and childcare on families,” the release said.

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, according to the province. 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 go directly to a judge. 

The province said the changes will help identify and prevent delays in resolving cases where a family law order may be able to prevent or end a child being in government care and help ensure stability.

The 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 resolution faster, according to the provincial government.

The updates were made based on feedback received since the introduction of the Provincial Court Family Rules in May.

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