Domestic Violence and Child Abuse in BC

British Columbia’s Family Law Act (FLA) came into full effect in March 2013 and has since been praised for improving and developing Family Law, prioritizing the rights of children, and keeping families safe.

The updated FLA attempts to provide a response to the developments in research regarding the negative impact of family violence, including on children who witness abuse.

Family violence is now proposed as an explicit factor that must be considered when assessing the best interests of a child, and recognizes that violence – even if directed exclusively at a spouse – can still be harmful to a child.

This article aims to provide necessary knowledge on how family violence is defined in terms of BC laws and how the laws aim to protect victims of family violence. It will also touch on child abuse and how the laws in BC can protect you and your child/children.

What Is Family Violence?

Section 1 of the FLA defines family violence broadly, bringing BC’s law in line with research that recognizes that abusive relationships can take many forms and are not just limited to physical and sexual violence.

Family violence includes:

  • Physical abuse of a family member including forced confinement or deprivation of life’s necessities. In other words, if your partner uses physical force orif they hold you captive with minimal or no food and water; the law considers this physical abuse.
  • Sexual abuse of a family member.
  • Attempted physical or sexual abuse of a family member.
  • Psychological or emotional abuse of a family member including
    • intimidation, harassment, coercion, or threats;
    • unreasonable restrictions on a family member’s physical and financial independence;
    • stalking; and
    • deliberate damage to a family member’s property
  • In the case of a child/children, direct or indirect exposure to family violence.

The broad definition of family violence allows the courts to take an expansive approach when deciding what circumstances and situations fall within it. For example, in the case of P. (J.C) v. B. (J) 2013 BCPC 297, the court found that a father’s failure to pay child support was a factor in determining family violence.

The court clarified, however, that failure to pay child support won’t always result in a finding of violence unless the failure is a direct result of an unwavering decision not to pay, knowing the impact it would have. In the example of the above case, the father had an intention to inflict harm by not paying child support, and this was, according to the courts, considered a form of family violence.

Seeking a Protection Order

Under the FLA, you can apply to Family Court for a protection order which is a legal order to stop your partner from either:

  • coming to your home or work;
  • coming to your child/children’s school;
  • stalking you;
  • possessing weapons; or
  • communicating with you.

The protection can be enforced by the police if your ex-partner does not abide by their requirements. For example, if he/she keeps coming to your home, the police can legally remove them.

How Do I Apply For a Protection Order?

Due to the sensitivity of Family Law cases, it is advised that you seek assistance from a lawyer when applying for a protection order.

Child Abuse

While the FLA protects family members from family violence, and protects children from witnessing family violence, there is also legislation that specifically safeguards children from abuse and neglect.

In terms of the Child, Family and Community Services Act(the CFCSA), parents and/or guardians are legally obligated to ensure that their child/children are not subject to any form of abuse or neglect.

According to section 13 of the CFCSA, state services, such as child protection services, can be allowed to intervene when a child has been or is at risk of being:

  • insufficiently supervised;
  • sexually or physically abused by a parent/guardian, or by someone else who is not being stopped by the parent/guardian;
  • subject to a lack of necessary health care treatment; or
  • emotionally abused by a parent/guardian, or by someone else who is not being stopped by the parent/guardian.

Key Takeaways

If you or your child is subject to family violence and/or child abuse, you can call the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s screening line at 1-800-663-9122.

Both the FLA and the CFCSA aim to protect the rights of abused family members, abused and neglected children, and/or children that have witnessed family violence.

If you feel that you may need legal assistance with a protection order or any other matter concerning family violence or child abuse, contact us today.

Disclaimer – The information contained herein is of a general nature. It is not intended to be legal advice and it is not intended to address the exact circumstances of any particular individual or entity. No one should rely on or act upon such information without receiving appropriate professional advice and without a thorough examination of their particular situation. Please contact our office if you have any questions with respect to the content of this entry, this website, or our Terms and Conditions .