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Key Changes To Federal Divorce Law Take Effect In 2021

Key Changes to Federal Divorce Law Take Effect in 2021

By , of Carmichael Law Professional Corporation posted in Divorce on Thursday, December 31, 2020.

Unless you practice law in Ontario or work in a legislative capacity, you may not be aware of sweeping changes to Canada’s federal Divorce Act that take effect in March 2021. The amendments affect numerous family law statutes, and the Department of Justice provides an exhaustive list; however, the key provisions target four areas which have been ripe for updates since the Act first became effective in 1986:


  1. Promoting the child’s best interests in divorce and separation cases;
  2. Addressing the serious nature of domestic violence;
  3. Reducing the number of children living in poverty; and,
  4. Streamlining the legal process and limiting the necessity for court involvement in family law matters.


As a result of the changes, there is a good chance that the laws may affect pending and future divorce cases. Therefore, it is important to consult with an Oshawa, ON divorce lawyer about the implications for your specific situation. Plus, you might benefit from reviewing a summary.


Elimination of Outdated Terminology: Courts have used the terms “custody” and “access” to refer to the various aspects of raising a minor child when parents do not live under the same roof. Modern trends favor updates, so the new Divorce Act provides:


  • Custody will now refer to a parent’s right and responsibility to make important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing; and,
  • Parenting time replaces the concept of access for the nonresidential parent.


Duties Regarding ADR: While parties have always had the option to resolve divorce issues through mediation or the collaborative process, changes to the Divorce Act go further to promote alternative dispute resolution. In fact, divorcing parents have a duty to protect children from conflict and try to smooth out their differences through “family dispute resolution.” This new development is a benefit for parents, since they will learn to communicate more effectively through the process. They are in a better position to carry out these cooperation and collaborative skills in the coming years as they raise their children together.


Emphasis on the Best Interests of the Child: Before the changes, the Divorce Act required judges to consider the best interests of the child in the context of his or her condition, means, needs, and other circumstances. The updates go into more detail and describe various factors that a court must review when determining parental decision-making and parenting time, such as:


  • The child’s age and maturity;
  • The child’s existing relationship with each parent and extended family;
  • Each parent’s ability to support the child’s relationship with the other parent;
  • The history of parenting and care for the child; and,
  • Many others.


Procedures and Rules for Relocation: There are no guidelines or statutory criteria for determining when one parent can move a child to a new jurisdiction, so the issue is a common subject of dispute. The updated Divorce Act includes provisions on:


  • Notice requirements for a proposed relocation;
  • Additional criteria for the child’s best interests standard, which only apply to relocation matters; and,
  • The burden of proof for the parent seeking relocation and what evidence is necessary to show that the move is in the child’s best interests.


Contact an Oshawa, ON Divorce Lawyer to Discuss the New Law


As you can see, the massive overhaul of the federal Divorce Act could have a substantial impact on your case. Therefore, it is essential to work with a legal team that has in-depth knowledge of the changes and extensive experience representing clients in a wide range of family law matters. For more information on how divorce laws apply to your situation, please contact the Carmichael Law Professional Corporation to set up a consultation at our offices in Oshawa, Ontario.

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