BC Courts are mandated to protect spouses and children from violence.
Family violence can have serious-and sometimes fatal-consequences for victims and for those who see or hear the violence. There can be long term impacts of violence on victims’ physical and emotional health that can result in their inability to work, loss of wages, lack of participation in regular activities and limited ability to care for themselves and their children. In turn, children may suffer long-term emotional, behavioural and developmental problems that can even lead them to be violent later in life.
The Family Law Act, which has governed family law in British Columbia since 2013, specifically defines family violence and requires judges to consider it when making decisions about parenting.
What does family violence mean?
Family violence means the physical, psychological, emotional and/or sexual abuse of a family member by another family member.
Section 1 of the Family Law Act says that family violence includes:
(a)physical abuse of a family member, including forced confinement or deprivation of the necessities of life, but not including the use of reasonable force to protect oneself or others from harm,
(b)sexual abuse of a family member,
(c)attempts to physically or sexually abuse a family member,
(d)psychological or emotional abuse of a family member, including
(i)intimidation, harassment, coercion or threats, including threats respecting other persons, pets or property,
(ii)unreasonable restrictions on, or prevention of, a family member’s financial or personal autonomy,
(iii)stalking or following of the family member, and
(iv)intentional damage to property, and
(e)in the case of a child, direct or indirect exposure to family violence.
How does family violence affect parenting?
Judges are required to consider family violence in making orders relating to the best interests of children, including the extent of family violence and whether the person responsible for the family violence may be impaired in their ability to meet the needs of the children.