The Deferral of Changes to the Divorce Act

Divorce Act

The Deferral of Changes to the Divorce Act

On June 21st, 2019, Bill C-78 received Royal Assent, marking the first substantiative update to federal family laws in more than 20 years. The changes outlined in this bill were well received by all relevant parties as they took steps to modernize and strengthen family laws, specifically the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act. Most relevant to Canadians seeking to proceed with divorce or separation are changes that aim to promote the best needs of children during divorce. A complete summary of the amendments passed can be found here, and the basic overview of changes to the Divorce Act are included below.

Amendments to the Divorce Act in this enactment:

(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.

EBL Family Law has been closely following developments in Canadian legislation to determine the impact of court closures and delays in hearings caused by Covid-19. One such development was recently announced by the Department of Justice, and has a direct impact on Family Law Professionals and Canadians who have been affected by divorce and separation.

Deferral of Coming Into Force Date

In early June 2020, it was announced that due to the unprecedented circumstances of Covid-19, the coming into force date of changes made to the Divorce Act would be deferred until March 1st, 2021, significantly later then the originally scheduled July 1st, 2020 date.

Although this delay is frustrating for Family Lawyers and their clients who stood to benefit from the modernization of the Divorce Act, it is understandable that the time required to properly implement these legislative changes simply isn’t available at this point in time.

This sentiment is matched in a quote on the matter from The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada:

“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.”

We will continue to monitor the impacts of delays in the coming weeks and months, and will keep our clients up-to-date on any any all outcomes stemming from current events.

If you have any questions about how the deferral of the coming into force date of former Bill C-78 will affect you, your family, or ongoing or future divorce proceedings, you can set up a consultation by calling our office at 587.440.3070 or by using the Contact form on our website.

The above information is a general summary of the deferral of changes to the Divorce Act: it does not constitute legal advice. EBL Family Law is not liable for any reliance on the above information and strongly encourages individuals to book a consult if you have questions specific to your circumstances.