New Divorce Act Changes – Part 2
In a recent Blog, we covered the enactment of the long-awaited changes to the Canadian federal Divorce Act. These sweeping and ambitious amendments were originally passed nearly a year ago, and were slated to come into force last summer. Their effective date was put on-hold in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, as of March 1, 2021, the Divorce Act changes are finally in force; corollary amendments to other Family legislation will come into force in stages.
Collectively, these changes focus on a unified theme, which is the best interests of children. As we detailed in that last Blog, among the noteworthy elements of the revamp is to change the terminology and substantive aspects of the Divorce Act around parenting for separated and divorced parents.
But there are many other changes afoot, as well.
The Divorce Act will now address the issues that might arise between parents where one of them plans to relocate with a child after divorce. The new law requires a parent in this position to give notice of his or her plans to move, and ensures that the other parent has key information about the details.
In situations where safety is an issue (e.g. the non-relocating parent is violent or abusive) the court is given the power to modify the notice requirements. Importantly, the legislative amendments also impose new guidelines that assist courts in deciding whether to allow the parent to even undertake the proposed move with the child, after considering the child’s best interests in the circumstances.
The recent changes to the Divorce Act have also filled an important gap in the law around family violence.
New provisions clearly define that term to include any conduct that is violent, threatening, or part of a pattern of coercive and controlling behavior. Conduct that directly or indirectly exposes a child to such conduct is also included.
Importantly, the courts have been given a list of factors to help assess the scope and impact of the violence, as a tool to help in the determination of what specific parenting arrangements will best serve the child’s interests.
Access to Justice
The Divorce Act has also been amended to facilitate access to justice, especially around bringing Canada closer to becoming a party to two key international family law Conventions, namely:
- The 1996 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children; and
- The 2007 Hague Child Support Convention.
By making changes to the Divorce Act and other federal legislation that aids with the enforcement of court orders, Canada and its provinces and territories are one step closer to being able to ratify and become a party to the Convention, which will facilitate the resolution of certain family law issues that arise when one or more of the parents or children live in another country.
Although they were a long time in the making, the changes to the Divorce Act solidify the law in key areas, and break new ground in others. Best of all, they put the focus on those who matter most in any divorce scenario: The children.
If you are going through a separation or other family law related issues, to ensure you understand all of your options and rights, you do not need to wait and you can get started online with us today or get in touch with us.