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Upcoming Changes to the Canadian Divorce Act

February 27, 2020

If you are thinking of filing for a divorce in 2020, you should know that there are upcoming changes to the Divorce Act. Most of these changes are aimed at better protecting the interests and rights of children.

Coming July 1, 2020, the following changes will be in effect:

Criteria for a child’s best interests

With the amendments to the act, the courts will use specific considerations to decide the best interests of each child of divorced parents. In addition to primary factors such as the child’s physical, emotional and mental well being, the court will also consider the nature and strength of the child’s relationships with the parents, grandparents, relatives and other significant persons in their life. Other factors that will be considered include the child’s upbringing, linguistic, cultural and spiritual background along with the child’s views and preferences.

In deciding, the court must recognize that the needs of each child and each family differ, and thus, they must use the factors to tailor specific parenting agreements.

Child-focused terminology

In addition to the changes to the criteria that determine the best interests of a child, the new Divorce Act will include updated language to describe parenting agreements. Parenting orders will replace custody orders and will now place greater emphasis on actual parenting tasks. Parenting orders will outline each parent’s responsibility for making important decisions on behalf of their child and address parenting time in neutral and clear language.

Changes in residence

In accordance with the changes to the act, parents who wish to relocate with a child after divorce must give notice and provide all relevant information regarding the potential move. The court can make modifications to the notice requirements if the safety of the child is in question. The strict rules for changes in residence make it easier for the court to decide if the move is in the child’s best interest and whether it should be allowed.

Addressing family violence

Previously, there were no protocols in the Divorce Act for handling family violence, and its effects on the wellbeing of a child. The new act will address those gaps. Courts must now consider family violence in any decisions regarding the child. The new act has added a list of factors that will help to assess the severity of the violence and how it can affect an individual’s ability to parent.

The family court will also need to consider any other rulings or orders involving either of the parents. This way, they can avoid making a decision that will conflict with orders made by a criminal court. For example, a restraining order will influence a parenting order.

Reducing poverty

Children and spouses can be at an increased risk of poverty if they do not receive the financial support they are entitled to. For that reason, the new legislation will seek to ensure more tools are available to establish and enforce child support. One way the law will facilitate this is by allowing for the release of tax information to a judge or a maintenance enforcement program to help more accurately determine fair child support amounts. Other measures will lessen the need for families to go to court to help reduce expenses.

Improved accessibility and efficiency of the family justice system

Finally, the new act will aim to make the family justice system more accessible and efficient by giving more authority to provincial child support administrative services allowing them to perform some of the duties that are currently left to the courts. This will help to make the process faster and more affordable. If parents live in different provinces or territories, the process of varying a support order will be streamlined to allow one court to handle the matter instead of involving two courts in both jurisdictions.

Where appropriate, legal advisers must encourage the use of alternative dispute resolution methods to attempt to resolve issues before opting for court intervention. Inconsistencies in the English and French versions of the Divorce Act have also been corrected.

Contact a divorce lawyer today!

If you want to learn more about the new Divorce Act, consult a divorce lawyer today.

If you are searching for a divorce lawyer in Toronto, contact us at Baker and Baker Family Law. At Baker and Baker Family Law, we can help you to understand how the new Divorce Act can impact your divorce and your family life thereafter.

So, give us a call today to schedule a legal consultation with one of our Toronto divorce lawyers. Let us discuss your options.

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