03/18/2013 11:31 EDT | Updated 05/18/2013 05:12 EDT

New Family Law Act allows police to act more quickly in family violence issues

VANCOUVER - B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond says significant changes to the province's Family Law Act come into play today, affecting anyone dealing with divorce, separation and family violence.

Bond says a major change adds teeth to restraining orders, formerly enforced through the civil justice system.

Under the revised Act, protection orders are covered by the criminal code, which Bond says permits timely, effective, potentially life-saving enforcement, because police can step in very quickly.

The group West Coast LEAF, which seeks equality rights legislation for women, says the Act, replacing the outdated Family Relations Act, also broadens the definition of family violence to include psychological and emotional abuse.

It is pleased the courts are now required to take evidence of family violence into account when making decisions about the best interests of any children.

But LEAF worries that the Act places significant emphasis on out-of-court settlements, without setting aside funds to cover the increased demands on mediators, arbitrators and family counsellors. (CHNL)