27 Jun Proposed Amendments to the Divorce Act: Introducing Bill C-78
By: Ainsley Hunter
Published: June 27,2018
Last month the federal Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-78 which amends legislation relevant to family law including the Divorce Act. The Bill provides for extensive amendments that focus on the best interests of the child and increasing access to justice.
The significant amendments include replacing the terms “custody” and “access” with the more neutral terms, “decision-making responsibility” and “parenting time”.
The amendments provide more guidance in determining the best interests of the child by including a non-exhaustive list of specific factors that should be considered. The current Act provides only a list of non-specific factors (the conditions, means, needs and other circumstances of the child) in determining the best interests of the child.
The Bill would add a broad definition of family violence to the Divorce Act, which currently does not contain any reference to family violence. The definition of family violence would include threatening or controlling behaviour as well as violence towards animals or property. Family violence is also to be considered in determining the best interests of the child and in addition to the definition of family violence, the amendments include a list of specific factors to be taken into account in considering the impact of family violence on the best interests of the child.
The amendments include comprehensive guidelines in regard to relocation requests including specific factors to be considered in determining whether the child should relocate with a parent and the burden of proof in various circumstances.
The Bill would require litigants to certify, among other things, that they would exercise any parenting orders in the manner consistent with the best interests of the child and try to resolve their dispute through a family dispute resolution process when commencing or responding to a court application. A family dispute resolution process is defined as a process outside of court including negotiation, mediation and collaborative law. Pursuant to the amendments, the parties could be directed to attend a family dispute resolution process.
These sweeping amendments would provide the Divorce Act with a much needed update.