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Vancouver and Edmonton Family Law Blog

Divorce Ads

I came across an article in the Walrus last week regarding a Chicago law firm which put out a rather risqué advertisement trumpeting, "Life's short.  Get a divorce".  This got me thinking about what, as family lawyers, the line is between our facilitating the breakdown of a relationship and our advocating that breakdown.  The advertisement perpetuates the stereotypical "ambulance chaser" image of lawyers, but in this case the chaser actually advocates the accident.   The danger of glamourizing that which is, for virtually everybody involved, a serious and difficult undertaking ignores the complex and often destructive ripples left by that breakdown, not only on the parties, but on the children of the parties.  Divorce is not fun; it is not trivial, and to treat it in a flippant manner disrespects those who treat their relationships seriously.

Court Scheduling

I fully understand the multitude of factors involved in scheduling appearances before Masters and Judges in the Supreme Court.  Cases settle, lawyers argue beyond their predicted times, people arrive with ex parte and short leave applications.  But is there nothing that can be done to improve the system we have?  Clerks are in a better position than virtually anyone else to make educated  predictions as to the length of the cases they are dealing with and could inform the  court registry on a regular basis.   A system of priority could be issued which would at least provide clients with a marginal amount of information on which to base a decision as to whether or not to seek an adjournment.   The current system of having lawyers seated, uninformed, around the court registry, waiting, does not seem to be particularly efficient.

Will Common-Law Mean the Same as Married Under the Proposed New Family Relations Act?

Yesterday, BC Attorney-General Mike deJong released a White Paper, which contains proposals and recommendations for a revised Family Relations Act.  Family law in BC is regulated primarily by the federal Divorce Act and the provincial Family Relations Act. The Family Relations Act has not been extensively reviewed since the 1970's. There are, naturally, hundreds of recommendations made in the White Paper, but one that is causing quite a stir is the proposed change in the treatment of property in common-law relationships.

Don't Wait Too Long, Part II

There seems to be a spate of "retroactive child maintenance for adult children" cases coming out of the courts.  The seemingly immortal Hartshorne case is once more in the forefront, with the parties appearing before the  B.C. Court of Appeal and (hopefully) finally resolving all of the issues arising from their ill fated 1989 marriage agreement.  This case went up to the Supreme Court of Canada and then was sent back down to the Supreme Court of BC level to determine the issue of child support.  Orders were made which were then appealed again by Mr. Hartshorne to the B.C. Court of Appeal.  The interesting fact here is that Ms. Hartshorne, after years of having been buffeted from court to court, was trying to collect arrears of child maintenance for her eldest son.   She brought that claim on in 2007 when the child was 19 years old.   Mr. Hartshorne took the position that "the trial judge did not have jurisdiction to entertain the respondent’s application for retroactive and prospective support for the eldest child because the son was no longer a child of the marriage when the application was made in November 2007." (at paragraph 67).  The court decided, however, that the 2007 application for arrears was simply a resurrection of an earlier action, and because of this stated,  "I am not persuaded the trial judge lacked jurisdiction to hear the application for increased retroactive and prospective child support for the son even though he was over the age of majority at the time because the application was first made by the respondent when the son was still a child of the marriage." [at paragraph 70]  The moral is that you should at least start any application for arrears before your child stops being defined as such by the Act.  Unless the Hartshornes appeal.

To Skype or not to Skype?

There has recently been a flurry of cases referencing, examining or at least mentioning Skype in the context of access and mobility.  As is becoming increasingly known, Skype  is software which allows people to make voice and, by way of a webcam, video calls over the internet. Inexpensive video conferencing has been available to the public through internet based applications for years now, but it seems to only be within the past year that the courts have taken real notice.   It is a truism that video conferencing is not true personal contact.  It is, however, at a higher plane than email or telephone communication, in that it provides child and parent with another level information, a level which heretofore has only been available in a face to face meeting. In British Columbia, the majority of cases which reference video conferencing do so only as an option of communication proposed by the party seeking to move or as evidence of a party's willingness to facilitate access:  See Betz v. Joyce 2009 CarswellBC 2339 British Columbia Supreme Court, 2009 where at paragraph 57, the court acknowledges the willingness of the party to engage in Skype communications.

JCC Scheduling Problems

Here's an issue:  Rule 60E(6) of the Rules of Court (Rule 7-1(8) of the Family Rules which come into effect in a few days)  dictates that a Requisition and Notice of Judicial Case Conference and a copy of Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 of a Form 89 (soon to be F8) Financial Statement must be served on a party at least 30 days before the date set for the JCC.  In the event that a  JCC is scheduled  for only  few days after service, the only recourse is to attend and complain at the very JCC that was improperly scheduled.  There should be a requirement to provide proof of service or delivery, as the case may be, at least three weeks before the conference, failing which it would be struck.

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