Under BC’s Family Law Act (FLA), the best interests of the child are now the only consideration when resolving legal disputes over parenting arrangements. This seemingly neutral concept of the child’s best interests can, however, have an unequal effect on the interests of others in family law actions. In relocation disputes, custodial or primary caregiver parents (who are still primarily women) tend to be more constrained by this decision-making framework than non-custodial or access parents (who are still primarily men). Consequently, BC’s law of parental mobility may produce adverse effects that disproportionately affect women. This paper first explores how the best interests principle became central to BC’s family law reform agenda and ultimately to the FLA, including its precedent-setting relocation provisions. Secondly, it considers the effect of BC’s legislative choice to elevate the best interests of the child above all others, with specific reference to relocation. It suggests that the rights of women are being disproportionately impacted, and refers to two recent relocation cases decided by the BC Court of Appeal: Duggan v White and Barendregt v Grebliunas. Finally, it considers prospects for reform of the current relocation regime with a view to re-injecting parents’ interests and rights into the balance.
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(2021) 30 Dal J Leg Stud 33