On May 22, 2018 the Federal Government introduced Bill C-78, which proposes changes to the Divorce Act. The proposed amendment would be the first significant revision to the Divorce Act since its enactment in 1985.
The changes to the Divorce Act are designed to implement a more “child-focused” approach to family law disputes, rather than an adversarial approach. By removing language like “custody” and “access,” and encouraging dispute resolution, the Act is designed to better promote the interests of the child.
The Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould, summarizes the changes as follows:
(a) replace terminology related to custody and access with terminology related to parenting;
(b) establish a non-exhaustive list of criteria with respect to the best interests of the child;
(c) create duties for parties and legal advisers to encourage the use of family dispute resolution processes;
(d) introduce measures to assist the courts in addressing family violence;
(e) establish a framework for the relocation of a child; and
(f) simplify certain processes, including those related to family support obligations.
If this Bill passes in the House of Commons, the legislation will likely come into force in 2019.
Thus far, most family law practitioners and commentators view the proposed changes positively. However, some state the impact of these amendments will depend on how courts across Canada would apply the new provisions. We note that the common-law in Canada already requires the courts to apply a “child-centric” test and only consider the “best interests of the child” when making decisions regarding custody and access (or “parenting time” rather) (Young v. Young,  S.C.J. No. 112). However, the proposed changes to the terminology should help reduce the “win/lose” mentality of many individuals involved in family law disputes.
To view Bill C-78 in its entirety, check out the link below:
To view the Divorce Act (1985), check out the link below: