Back in May of this year, the Federal Government introduced Bill C-78, which proposed a number of changes to the current family law system. These amendments will be the first significant update to the legislation in over 20 years.
Make sure to read through the list of key changes in order to be aware and informed of how this could affect you and your family law case.
Reaffirming the ‘Best Interests of the Child’
There are several changes that are aimed at reaffirming that the best interests of the child are the only consideration in parenting arrangements. For example, one change is the introduction of a non-exhaustive list of criteria that can be used to determine the best interests of the child under the Divorce Act.
In addition, the Bill introduces a “primary consideration” to the best interests test, which will require the courts to consider a child’s physical, emotional, and psychological safety, security, and well-being. All other factors will be assessed through the lens of the primary consideration and test.
Updates to Common Terms & Language
If these changes are enforced, it will remove the terms “custody order”, “custody” and “access” from the Divorce Act. These phrases will be replaced with “parenting orders”, “decision-making responsibility” and “parenting time”.
This change would address the fact that relocation is one of the most commonly litigated issues during a family law case. The Bill would implement notice requirements, a list of best interests criteria specifically for these cases and shifts the burden of proof based on existing parenting arrangements.
The Bill introduces a statutory definition of family violence based on social science research and includes family violence as a factor to consider in the best interests test. Additionally, courts must ask about any other civil protection, child protection, or criminal proceedings or orders that involve the parties.
Changes to the federal enforcement legislation (FOAEAA) will allow for the release of income tax information to courts and child support services (i.e. FRO). This is critical for helping to determine appropriate child support amounts. There would also be changes to the garnishment legislation (GAPDA) to assist families in receiving funds more quickly.
Streamlining Procedures & Dispute Resolution
These changes would allow for administrative services to determine initial child support and recalculation amounts. This will include encouraging alternatives to dispute resolution, such as mediation and arbitration, and the court would have the authority to refer parents to these services. Lawyers will also have a duty to inform their clients about dispute resolution services that could assist them.
As of October 4th, the Bill has gone through First and Second Readings; it will be interesting to track these ongoing developments!
If you have any questions about the family law process or are in need of legal advice, don’t hesitate to contact Epstein & Associates to set up your free initial consultation.