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New Ontario Bill Fosters Child-Grandparent Relationships

The Ontario government has just introduced a new Bill that aims to promote the relationship between children and their grandparents, primarily in situations where the child’s parents have separated or divorced.

Bill 67, titled “An Act to amend the Children’s Law Reform Act with respect to the relationship between a child and the child’s grandparents”, received its first reading on April 17, 2012.   If passed, the Bill will amend those provisions in the existing Children’s Law Reform Act (CLRA) which govern custody or access, by prohibiting the parents (or anyone else who is entitled to custody) from creating or maintaining unreasonable barriers to the formation and continuation of a personal relationship between the child and the child’s grandparents.

Simply put, the amendments strive to promote such connections between children and grandparents, by prohibiting parents or others with custody from actively preventing or impeding such relationships.

Also, Bill 67 would affect custody and access applications under the CLRA, by adding the child-grandparent relationship to the list of considerations that must be applied by a court.

Currently, all applications of this type require the court to evaluate the “best interests” of the child, taking into account the child’s needs and circumstances; these include consideration of the love, affection and emotional ties between the child and a list of other people (including the person with custody or access or other family members).  If Bill 67 is passed, this list will now include the child’s grandparents.

Also, the mandated “best interests” test for the court currently includes the following:

• the child’s views and preferences, if they can reasonably be ascertained;

• the length of time the child has lived in a stable home environment;

• the ability and willingness of each person applying for custody of the child to provide the child with guidance and education, the necessaries of life and any special needs of the child;

• the plan proposed by each person applying for custody of or access to the child for the child’s care and upbringing;

• the permanence and stability of the family unit with which it is proposed that the child will live;

• the ability of each person applying for custody of or access to the child to act as a parent; and

• the relationship by blood or through an adoption order between the child and each person who is a party to the application.

The new law would augment this list, to include consideration of whether the parent applying for custody is willing to facilitate contact with the child’s grandparents.

Admittedly, the Bill is still in the very early stages, and needs to proceed through second and third readings before it could  become law in Ontario.  However, few could argue that it represents anything other than a positive addition to family law in the province.

For a full copy of the proposed Bill, see:

http://www.ontla.on.ca/bills/bills-files/40_Parliament/Session1/b067.pdf