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Amendments to Divorce Act and its deferral until March 1, 2021

Jun 11 2020
Rajni Tekriwal


Bill C-78, the much-awaited Divorce Act Amendments were to come into force on July 1, 2020. Due to Covid-19, the coming into force has now been deferred until March 1, 2021.

What are the key objectives of Bill C-78?

  1.  Promoting children’s best interests
  2.  Addressing Family violence
  3.  Helping to reduce poverty
  4.  Making Canada’s family justice system more accessible and efficient

The government had been making ongoing efforts to support children and families going through separation and divorce. These changes would have brought a much stronger family justice system, better resolutions of disputes and improved outcomes.

Amongst many other changes, the Amendments are focused on setting out the criteria for the best interests of the child, removing the terminology of “Custody” and “Access” to avoid the “winner” and “loser” mentality, and use of more child-focused terminology related to parent’s responsibilities for the children.  It is an introduction to “parenting orders” setting out “parenting time” and “decision-making responsibilities”. This is to reduce parental conflict and to give specific direction to the care of the children. The best interests of children is a foundational legal principle in Canadian family law.

Then why is there a deferral up until March 1, 2021?

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the operation of governments, courts and Canada's family justice system. After consultation with the provinces and territories, we have determined that a delay in the coming into force of changes to the Divorce Act is necessary to ensure they have sufficient time to adjust their laws and regulations to reflect the legislative changes in the Divorce Act. We understand how important the changes to the Divorce Act are to Canadians affected by separation and divorce, especially to vulnerable family members. We are working hard with our partners to implement these changes.”

The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

This deferral has brought down the spirits of family law lawyers and of  the litigants as it could have brought an immediate relief in the growing domestic conflicts and its resolution at this difficult times. It could have been an immediate relief measure for the victims of domestic violence to instantly file for Divorce and seek other necessary orders.

The shocking increase in the numbers of domestic violence is clearly indicative of the fact that the stronger have become even more strong with intimidation, control and force, and the weaker have become even more weak with fear, dependency, instability and insecurity. The emotions are high and so are the challenges to deal with it. Possibly there is more to be considered, introduced and enforced. There is definitely a greater need to protect the vulnerable. The situation is fluid, and the coming times with present experiences must bring further changes to the law.

The Amendments to Divorce Act, though it seems far, is not too far. It will definitely bring a big change in family law for good. Hopefully, it will clear up a lot of deep-rooted conflicts and will strengthen families undergoing separation and divorce.

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