Ontario Unveils the Moving Ontario Family Law Forward Act, 2020 (Bill 207)
The Ontario government has taken definitive steps toward making family law matters “easier, faster and more affordable” to resolve, according to its News Release.
In enacting proposed legislation titled the Moving Ontario Family Law Forward Act, 2020 (Bill 207) the government intends to amend the provincial Family Law Act and the Children’s Law Reform Act in significant ways. It also proposes related and consequential changes to other legislation that impacts family law.
Among the key changes is the modernization of the wording used in existing family law statutes. For example, the word “custody” would be eliminated from the Children’s Law Reform Act, in favour of the phrase “decision-making responsibility”. Likewise, the term “access” would be changed to “parenting time”. These substitutions would align Ontario family law terminology with the corresponding changes to the federal Divorce Act wording which come into force in March of 2021.
If passed, Bill 207 will also improve the child support service currently available online, for example by allowing parents to obtain certified copies of child support notices electronically. These kinds of enhancements work in tandem with the province’s recent expansion of its online court filing service, that potentially covers 450 court documents needed for proceedings in the Superior Court of Justice or Ontario Court of Justice.
Another important revision proposed by Bill 207 involves the overhaul the Courts of Justice Act as it governs family law appeals. The changes would operate to clarify and streamline the appeals process, and alter the procedural route by which certain appeals are taken.
All of these proposed amendments under the government’s Bill 207 come on the heels of extensive consultations with family law stakeholders such as parents, family lawyers, arbitrators and mediators, and child protection advocates. In addition, the Ontario Bar Association and Federation of Ontario Law Associations also support the amendments, especially since they increase public access to the family law system.
The text of the proposed Bill 207 is found: here.
The Ontario Government’s News Release is found: here.