Family Law Blog

Domestic Abuse And Divorce | BC Family Law

Domestic Abuse And Divorce | BC Family Law

This is an updated version of our previous blog article, The Impact of Spousal Abuse on Divorce.

Domestic abuse is a silent epidemic that has been impacting a devastatingly large number of Canadians. According to self-reported data from Women and Gender Equality Canada, 44 percent of women who have ever been in an intimate partner relationship (approximately 6.2 million women aged 15 and over) experienced some kind of psychological, physical, or sexual abuse within their relationship.

While this isn’t a phenomenon that women exclusively suffer, the statistics show this has a disproportionate impact on women. For example, 79 percent of those who reported intimate partner violence to police in 2019 were women.

Legal Rights of Spousal Abuse Victims in BC

Many of the victims of spousal abuse are engaged in long-term relationships and are unsure of their legal rights when it comes to family law issues such as divorce and parenting arrangements.

BC’s Family Law Act provides that family violence must be considered in relation to parenting matters, and also provides a mechanism for seeking protection from further violence.

Defining Domestic Abuse Under BC Family Law

Not only does the Family Law Act specifically provide a definition of “family violence” that accounts for non-physical forms of violence, but it also explicitly lists family violence as a consideration in the court’s assessment of the “best interests” of a child—namely, the courts are to consider “the impact of any family violence on the child's safety, security or well-being, whether the family violence is directed toward the child or another family member.”

These family violence considerations are also reflected in the federal Divorce Act, which considers factors like “the ability and willingness of any person who engaged in the family violence to care for and meet the needs of the child”, and “any civil or criminal proceeding, order, condition, or measure that is relevant to the safety, security and well-being of the child.”

The Supreme Court of Canada has also commented on the insidious nature of intimate partner violence, stating that “domestic violence allegations are notoriously difficult to prove” (Barendregt v. Grebliunas, 2022 SCC 22, para 144).

How To Legally Protect Yourself From Family Violence

In our recent article, “What Are Family Law Protection Orders?”, we explore what protection orders are and how they can protect you when you are experiencing family violence.

However, there are other ways you can protect yourself from family violence. Conduct orders are another type of order that can protect an affected party where the legal test for a protection order has not been met. For example, conduct orders can impose restrictions on communications between the parties. Such orders can protect clients from experiencing an escalation of conflict or threats during their divorce or family law proceedings.

Additionally, there are helplines and support services that can connect you with resources, such as for housing or counselling, that can assist you with managing your day-to-day situation.

Lawyers, social workers, and counsellors are all advocates for the well-being and safety of their clients and often work together to provide a client with protection, advice, and support.

If you believe that you are a victim of family violence, you are not alone in navigating the legal system. Lawyers at Westside Family Law are here to help with their expertise in this area of law.