On March 1, 2021 Bill C-78 An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act came into force. The changes to the Divorce Act are aimed at promoting children’s best interests and addressing family violence.  The main changes to the Divorce Act relate to custody and access. 

The term custody will no longer be used.  The general thought is that the label ‘custody’ itself creates too much conflict between parents. Under the new statute parents have a duty to protect children from conflict.  Custody orders are now referred to as Parenting orders.  Parenting orders will deal with decision-making responsibility for significant decisions about a child’s well-being including health, education, culture, language, religion, spirituality, and significant extra-curricular activities. 

Access is now referred to as Parenting time and the term access will no longer appear in orders.  The guiding principle will shift from the concept of ‘maximum time’ to the notion of parenting time consistent with the best interests of the child.  There is a shift in the primary focus of the Act to, ‘the child’s physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being.”

Parents are encouraged to develop comprehensive Parenting Plans in an effort to avoid conflict in the future.  There is also an encouragement to use family dispute resolution processes such as mediation or collaborative family law,

The inclusion of family violence considerations in the act takes the focus away from physical violence and focuses on any conduct that is violent or threatening or that constitutes a pattern of coercive and controlling behavior resulting in fear.  As such, financial abuse and stalking are among the factors that a court will consider in assessing family violence and its impact on children.


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Every situation is different and the way that the law is applied to a situation will depend on the particular circumstances of each case.  It is important to be aware that some laws are different for married as opposed to unmarried couples.
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