Families going through separation now required to take parenting courses prior to court appearance

Mandatory parenting courses part of amended B.C. Provincial Court Family Rules

Families going through separation now required to take parenting courses prior to court appearance

Pursuant to the amended Provincial Court Family Rules (PCFR), families going through separation in British Columbia now have better access to parenting courses and given more options in attending family law-related hearings.

Effective January 4, parents and other family members – dealing with separation or divorce and facing decisions about guardianship, parenting arrangements, contact, and child and spousal support – are required to take free online “Parenting After Separation courses” prior to appearing in the Provincial Court of British Columbia.

The online parenting courses will help parents make careful and informed decisions about their separation and ensure that their decisions are in the best interests of their children. Previously, this was a requirement in only 21 of the 89 court registries in the province.

The amended PCFR has also provided flexible attendance for parties appearing before the B.C. Provincial Court on family law-related matters. Aside from in-person court appearance, parties can now appear through telephone, video, or other electronic means.

Continuing this flexibility helps maintain better access to the courts, and can ease the effect of travel, time-off work and childcare on families, according to the Ministry of Attorney General.

These amendments to the PCFR are part of a multi-year project between the Ministry of Attorney General and the B.C. Provincial Court to help families reduce conflict and work toward earlier and more collaborative resolutions, while keeping the children’s best interests front and centre.

The province has also begun working with the B.C. Provincial Court to design and launch a pilot project in May 2022 for informal trials on family-law matters. The informal trial pilot seeks to create a new trial process in which judges can take more facilitative role in supervising conduct of trials to better assist parties, particularly those who are representing themselves.

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