C-78 Amendments to Divorce Act - Enacted March 1, 2021

The amended Divorce Act

The amendment to the 1985 Divorce Act was to be in effect on July 1, 2020. However, given the global pandemic of COVID-19, there were many delays. It is now, March 2021 and the amendments to the Divorce Act are beginning to roll out. John-Paul Boyd, QC, based in Vancouver has written extensively about this. A portion of which is included below. I invite you to visit his website and under the library tab to find further and more comprehensive information.

A Summary of Changes:

  • Replacing custody and access with a child-centred approach to parenting after separation that talks about spouses who have decision-making responsibility for and parenting time with children of the marriage, and people other than spouses who may have contact with a child;
  • Introducing new duties that require parties to minimize children's exposure to the conflict arising from their dispute, to provide each other with full and frank disclosure, and to attempt to resolve their disputes other than by litigation;
  • Introducing a new duty that requires the court to take into account proceedings, undertakings and orders arising from criminal, civil protection and child protection matters involving the parties and their children;
  • Overhauling the best-interests test to include three primary considerations — "the child's physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and wellbeing" — and a lengthy list of specific factors to consider when determining the optimum parenting arrangements for children, including the views of children and impact of coercive control and family violence;
  • Establishing a new test to determine relocation applications that includes a shifting burden of proof, as well as a new series of forms for spouses who propose to relocate or wish to object to a proposed relocation, and for persons who have contact with a child and will be relocating;
  • Replacing the old two-step process for varying extraprovincial support orders with a single-step process that resembles the process currently found in the provincial and territorial inter-jurisdictional support legislation; and,
  • introducing a variety of new provisions addressing several of Canada's domestic and international reciprocal enforcement obligations regarding support and parenting orders.

Amended legislation and new forms

An official consolidation of the amended Divorce Act is not yet available from the Justice Laws website. However, you can download an unofficial, easy-to-read consolidation from John's firm's website. Look for the document titled "The new Divorce Act." The new relocation forms, created by a new regulation to the Divorce Act, can be found on the Department of Justice's fantastic Information for professionals webpage. The superior court forms used to commence and respond to Divorce Act proceedings are also changing, to reflect the new parenting after separation terminology and to include the new certificates spouses must complete to show they are aware of their duties under sections 7.1 to 7.5 of the amended act. Check the website of your provincial or territorial government for Orders in Council prescribing the amendments. Information about the amendmentsThe Department of Justice's Information for professionals webpage offers links to a page providing an Overview of changes to family laws and an incredibly useful page, The Divorce Act changes explained, which includes a side-by-side comparison of the old text to the new text complete with explanations about why the changes were made. Expect these explanations to figure prominently in decisions about the new legislation! A brief overview of Bill C-78, an Act to amend the Divorce Act