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Changes to the Divorce Act: Our Mediators Explain the Impact

Changes to the Divorce Act Are Child-Centred

As you may be aware, changes to the Divorce Act were scheduled to become effective on July 1, 2020. However, due to the global Covid19 pandemic, these changes were delayed until March 1, 2021. It is important for not only legal professionals to recognize and understand these changes, but for anyone going through the divorce process as the changes may impact your family.

 Changes to the Language of the Divorce Act

One of the most notable changes to the Divorce Act is the change in language. The reason for these changes has to do with the negative connotations of the current language. The current wording was found to be parent-centric and adversary in nature. The new language is intended to put the children first and create more amicable discourse between parties. For example, the term “custody” will be replaced with “decision-making responsibilities”. This refers to the ability / responsibility to make significant decisions about a child such as their health and education. Thus, instead of having sole / joint custody, you will have sole, joint or divided decision-making responsibility. Additionally, the term “access” will be replaced with “parenting time”. In this parameter, “parenting time” refers to the time each parent has with the children. Overall, the changes to the language in the Divorce Act are intended to reduce the emotions associated with parenting language and create a more neutral vocabulary.

Contact Orders

Under the amended Divorce Act, a person other than a spouse can apply for contact of the children. This means that a “non-parent” such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle is able to apply for a Contact Order to grant them a certain amount of time with the children. If granted, a Contact Order would be entered with the court and would be legally binding. As well, the court can consider whether that contact could occur during parenting time of another person.

Planning to Move with Your Children? You’ll Want to Read These Changes

 Prior to these new changes to the Divorce Act, if you intended to move with your children to another city, province or country and the other party did not agree to this move, you needed to file a mobility application to have a Justice hear your matter and determine if you and the children could move. This process was typically referred to as mobility or mobility rights. Now, this will be referred to as Relocation and for any relocation, even within the same city, the moving parent must notify any person who has parenting time or decision-making responsibility with respect to the child. Parties can apply for exception to this, particularly if family violence is an issue. For a relocation to another city or further, the relocating party must provide at least 60 days notice to anyone with parenting time, decision-making authority or a contact order. This notice must include expected date of relation, new address, contact information for the child and a proposal for how parenting time will be exercised by all parties.

Best Interest of the Children

The Amended Divorce Act now has a section titled “Best Interests of the Child” which requires the court to take into account only the best interests of the child when making decisions with respect to parenting and contact orders. Until now, family law Judge’s and Justice’s already use the test of the best interest of the child but the changes to the Divorce Act now provide for a specific list of factors they must consider with making decisions with respect to parenting time and decision-making responsibilities.

If you are going through a separation, our mediators can assist you in resolving parenting matters (and all other corollary issues such as child / spousal support, etc.) and finalize your divorce proceedings. If you wish to explore the possibility of using mediation to finalize your divorce, connect with us today.