- May 13, 2023

A Glimpse of the New Changes in the Divorce Act

Are you in the middle of your divorce or separation proceedings? Take a pause and learn about the latest changes in the Divorce Act. On March 1st, 2021, the Federal Department of Justice of Canada brought into force some important changes to the Divorce Act. These changes may affect your case or influence your decision, so take a look at them before deciding on your next big step.

Applicability of the Divorce Act:

The federal Divorce Act applies to married couples, who intend to get divorced or who are getting divorced.

Child-Focused Terminology Changes:

All court orders, after March 1st, 2021, shall make use of revised language. Now, the term “custody” is to be replaced with “decision-making,” and “access” with “parenting time.” The new language is neutral and emphasizes the importance of a child’s best interests where both parents are granted parenting time.

Relocating After Your Divorce:

The Divorce Act has also imposed new rules on ‘relocation’ which directly address issues relating to a parent or child’s change of residence, and the potential impact the move may have on the said child’s best interests and scheduling the appropriate parenting time.

The new guidelines indicate the following:

  • The relocating parent is essentially required to provide a written notice of his/her plan to move, sharing all the necessary details such as, the new address, date of movement, and contact details with the other parent who also has parental responsibilities for the child.
  • If relocation significantly affects the child’s relationship with the people receiving notice, then the notice should be sent 60 days before the date of leaving. Subsequently, if a parent disagrees with the relocation of their child and the new parenting responsibilities, they have 30 days to either notify an objective to the other parent or apply to the court to stop the relocation.

Alternatives to Court:

The amended Divorce Act further promotes the use of the ‘family dispute resolution process’ i.e., negotiation, mediation, and collaborative law, to resolve family law conflicts instead of litigation, unless it is necessary. Advocates now have to notify, as well as encourage their clients to settle their issues using these methods in a cordial manner.

Victims of Family Violence & Divorce:

The new Act redefines the legal bounds of the term ‘family violence’ and addresses any conduct that is violent, threatening, controlling, or brings fear towards the well-being of a family member or any other person. It explicitly covers all kinds of family violence including, sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, threats, harassment, failure to provide necessities of life, threats against the safety of animals or property, and committing harmful acts towards an animal or property.

In determining the parenting arrangement for children impacted by family violence, judges must consider factors such as, the risk of harm to the child, improvement in the violent behavior of a parent, and the severity/form/occurrence of the abuse. The Act also considers the types of evidence admissible to prove family violence, in court.

The ‘Child’s Best Interest’

In divorce cases, courts give the upmost importance to the child’s best interest before granting parenting decisions. As per the new Act, factors relevant to the child’s best interest are:

  • The priority is given to the child’s preferences and opinions depending on the level of maturity and age of the child;
  • The child’s bond with each parent and their respective relatives;
  • Evidence and efforts made towards providing the child care in the past;
  • Future plans for the child’s care;
  • Financial, physical, mental, and willing capacity of each party to take care of the child;
  • Each parents readiness to communicate with each other & effectively co-parent their child;
  • Holistic factors involved in the upbringing of the child such as, language, culture, traditions, religion, etc.; and
  • Ability to provide safety & security to the child in contexts where a parent has abusive behavior or whether there are any ongoing legal proceedings against the parent.

If you wish to know more about the above-mentioned in relation to your matter, consult the best law experts at GSD law group in Calgary and get valuable consultation!

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