Federal Government Announces Proposed Changes to the Divorce Act
On May 22, 2018, the federal government tabled the proposed Bill C-78 (titled “An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act”) which would make significant changes to the Divorce Act and related legislation.
The overall intent of the Bill, which is only at first reading, is to modernize federal Family Law, by promoting faster, more cost-effect solutions to disputes. In connection with the Divorce Act specifically, the Bill proposes to amend that legislation to enhance the protection of the “best interests of the child”, by adding new rights and obligations, namely:
- Parenting Orders. Courts would be allowed to make “parenting orders” (instead of the current “custody orders”) allocating the exercise of parenting time and decision-making responsibility in respect of any “child of the marriage”. Key points:
- Only the bests interests of the child must be considered by the court, and the relevant factors will be specified in the legislation.
- Either or both parents could apply for one, as can a non-parent (e.g. a grandparent) with the court’s permission.
- Notice Obligations. A new process would be added, that requires parents who have decision-making responsibility or parenting time to give notice of an intent to change their or their child’s residence, or to relocate. Key points:
- That notice must be given to any other person who also is entitled to exercise decision-making authority or parenting time, or who has a contact order.
- A court may order that these notice requirements be dispensed with, but only where appropriate such as where there is a risk of family violence.
- A person who receives such notice can apply to the court to object to the child being relocated.
- Once again, the best interests of the child, as that assessment is informed by legislatively-specified factors, will inform the court’s decision.
The proposed Bill would make many other changes, and among the talking-points is the question of whether and how it might impact on individual rights established under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Stay tuned for additional upcoming Blogs on this topic.
For the full text of Bill C-78, see:
BILL C-78, An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act