It’s been two decades since any changes have been made to the Divorce Act. As more and more families experience divorce, it’s necessary to ensure our laws are current and representative of Canadian families and their unique situations. The Federal Government has proposed some significant changes to the Divorce Act to promote amicable, cost-effective resolutions to family law matters.
Important Terminology Changes
Some of the biggest proposed changes are regarding children and the impact that divorce – especially custody battles can have on their well-being. The changes hope to eliminate the conflict-driven vocabulary and focus more on child-centred language. For example, “custody” and “access” will be replaced with “parenting orders” and parenting time”. The idea is that the changes will replace negative connotations with terminology related to custody with more positive terminology related to parenting. As well, the terminology in the proposed changes include far less legal jargon and are much easier to comprehend without a law degree. This will assist the average family in navigating their own family-law disputes and assist self-represented litigants with interpreting the law.
Best Interest of the Child
Currently, the law does not necessarily consider their child’s wants and input when determining issues that will directly impact them such as parenting time and living arrangements. The proposed changes will take into consideration the child’s voice and give it more merit.The proposed changes to the Divorce Act will set out a non-exhaustive list of criteria with respect to the best interests of the child. For example, the child’s culture, language, health, education and spirituality will be taken into consideration when determining their best interest.
Alternative Dispute Resolutions
The primary goal of the proposed changes to the Divorce Act is to reduce conflict and resolve issues outside of the courts with a more collaborative approach. The changes aim to reduce parental conflict as studies have repeatedly shown that it is not the divorce itself which can be harmful to children but a repeated exposure to their parent’s conflict. The changes aim to create duties for parties and legal advisers to encourage the use of family dispute resolution processes such a mediation, arbitration, parenting coordination and settlement meetings. Thus, protecting children from the high-conflict of litigation matters by promoting resolution methods that focus on collaboration and amicable solutions.
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