Learning about Family Law

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Family Law encompasses all regulations that affect family matters including marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships, adoption, surrogacy, child protection and adoption. It outlines what constitutes a family unit, legal ties, legal rights and obligations as a parent and as a spouse, and laws for victims of abuse.

In Manitoba, there are various agencies that work to support and provide assistance to families and uphold the acts that pertain to Family Law. Examples of these are the Family Maintenance Act, The Child and Family Services Act, the Adoption Act, the Divorce Act, and Family Property Act, among others. The province has also set up programs such as the Family Violence Protection Program (or click on Help for Immigrants) that protect the well-being of the most vulnerable members of the family.

Here are a few more basic information (and where to learn more about them) about Family Law:

The Family Maintenance Act

This piece of legislation is composed of guidelines and stipulations based on 11 fundamental principles:

  1. The safety, security and well-being of children and their best interests are fundamental responsibilities of society.
  2. The family is the basic unit of society and its well-being should be supported and preserved.
  3. The family is the basic source of care, nurture and acculturation of children and parents have the primary responsibility to ensure the well-being of their children.
  4. Families and children have the right to the least interference with their affairs to the extent compatible with the best interests of children and the responsibilities of society.
  5. Children have a right to a continuous family environment in which they can flourish.
  6. Families and children are entitled to be informed of their rights and to participate in the decisions affecting those rights.
  7. Families are entitled to receive preventive and supportive services directed to preserving the family unit.
  8. Families are entitled to services which respect their cultural and linguistic heritage.
  9. Decisions to place children should be based on the best interests of the child and not on the basis of the family’s financial status.
  10. Communities have a responsibility to promote the best interests of their children and families and have the right to participate in services to their families and children.
  11. Indian bands are entitled to the provision of child and family services in a manner which respects their unique status as aboriginal peoples.

To know more about the act, read it in full here: Family Maintenance Act.

Marriage in MB

  1. Marriages made outside its jurisdiction, so long as they meet the qualifications of that jurisdiction, are accepted and recognized in the province.
  2. Having more than one spouse is against the law. You can only remarry if you are legally divorced or your spouse has died.
  3. If you are intending to get married soon, read Till death do us part: All about getting married in Manitoba.
  4. Marrying a Canadian citizen just to gain entry into Canada is a crime. It is called marriage fraud. Read Do I become a citizen when I marry a Canadian to know the facts.

Legal separation/Divorce/Annulment

  1. Provincial and territorial laws apply when married/unmarried parents separate and do not pursue divorce. You can go to this link for Manitoba laws and services.
  2. Divorce mainly severs the ties of marriage while annulment voids the marriage from the beginning. To learn more about Divorce Law in Canada, go to these sites: How to Apply for a Divorce, Divorce and Separation (Department of Justice site), and Family Law in the Manitoba.ca site.

Family Conciliation Services

  1. Family Conciliation Services provides a range of conflict resolution services to families going through separation and divorce.
  2. Its services, given for free, are provided at the request of court or directly to family members.
  3. The agency provides information and education for separated parents to help their children through this difficult period, referrals to proper services provided by agencies/organizations in the community, mediation services for parents in conflict, counselling, and support and education programs for children and grandparents.

No to Family violence

  1. Domestic violence or abuse in all forms is a crime in Manitoba. There are six common types of abuse: physical, sexual, psychological/emotional, financial, and “honour” based violence (“What is Family Violence?” on Manitoba.ca).
  2. Manitoba has the Family Violence Prevention Program which has 33 agencies across the province to help people affected by domestic abuse. They provide shelter, resource centres for information, counselling, and a host of specialized programs to provide support, training and education.
  3. If you are in an abusive relationship (or if you know someone who may be), help is easily available. If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Here is a link to resources and supports in Manitoba.

Child and Family Services

  1. Child and Family Services (CFS) is every parent’s partner in ensuring child safety and security. It is responsible for providing a range of social services and programs that keep children safe and protected, and extends assistance to families affected by family violence and family disruption.
  2. CFS can help you with your concerns about finding child care, emergency food and housing, and even counselling.

Levels of court in MB

  1. There are three levels of court that handle family law in Manitoba: the Unified Family Court; Provincial Court, Family Division; and the Court of Appeal.
  2. Family disputes may be handled through a case management system, resolution by mediation, negotiation through a lawyer, arbitration, or collaborative law. The Court is usually the last resort.
  3. If you need legal help on any matter regarding Family Law, you can go to this page on the Manitoba.ca site: More Resources on Legal Information and Assistance.

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Community Resources

Resources on various aspects of Family Law are available on the Manitoba Justice site. Here you can download the Family Law in Manitoba public information booklet which contains general information about family law and the legal system.

The Family Law Access Centre is a pilot project of the Law Society of Manitoba to assist middle income families afford legal services with respect to family law matters. Know more about the program on their website.

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Quiz

Learning about Family law

Select the best definition for each word as used in the article above.

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