Happy Canada Divorce Day (Not)!

Virtual fireworks, #virtualCanadaDay — that was neat. Thanks Tim Hortons! COVID-19 has brought so many changes. Here’s the latest: Canada Day 2020 updates to the federal Divorce Act didn’t go ahead after all. They’re pushed back to March 1, 2021.

New Divorce Rules for Ontario Parents

July 1, 2020 was the date “parenting time” and “decision making responsibility” were supposed to replace child access and child custody in Canada’s Divorce Act. Confused about the language? Fortunately, now you have time to catch up.

Who Divorce Act Changes Apply To

The changes apply to all Ontario parents (and Canadians) who request a parenting order or want to revise child custody or child access arrangements.

How the Divorce Act Changes in 2021 

Here’s how the delay in the Canada Divorce Act changes affects you:

  • Existing divorce court orders or agreements stay the same, before and after March 1, 2021.
  • The new law applies to new court orders or agreements made after March 1, 2021.
  • Change your court order or divorce agreement after March 1, 2021 and the new divorce law applies.
  • You or your children must have a “change in circumstances” to revise a divorce order or agreement after the new law takes effect.

What’s Happening to Canada’s Divorce Act

Ottawa refreshed the Divorce Act in 2019 to:

  1. Promote children’s best interests.
  2. Deal with family violence.
  3. Reduce child poverty.
  4. Make family law easier to use.

The refresh admits divorce has no “one-size-fits-all solution”. You’re unique alright.

Divorce Changes in the Best Interests of the Child 

You know how important your children’s best interests are. Family court judges agree. The revised Divorce Act requires family judges to think about your children’s physical, emotional and psychological safety and well-being. Can your ex-spouse care for the children while supporting their relationship with you and cooperating and communicating on parental issues? Your children’s relationships to parents (all of them), grandparents and other important people will matter. Linguistic, cultural and spiritual heritage (including Indigenous) and upbringing will be considered. If they are old enough, the judge may ask your children for their views and preferences. 

More Parenting Time and Decision Making

Parenting time will be maximized. Custody orders and access arrangements will be replaced with parenting orders (but only for new orders). Your day-to-day decision making responsibilities, like bedtime and meals, will be included in your parenting order. So will your responsibilities for health, religion, education and more. Instead of access, grandparents or other significant people can ask for contact time. Parenting arrangements won’t be about winning or losing anymore. 

Moving Your Children Around 

Family court judges will have new guidelines to decide how your child’s best interests are affected by a proposed move. How much notice you get will be affected by any safety issues.

Definition of Family Violence in Ontario

Family violence was sadly downplayed in the old Divorce Act. The new act defines it as violent, threatening, coercive and controlling conduct. It includes acts that cause you or family members to fear for their safety or exposes your children to direct or indirect violence. Starting in 2021, before making parenting arrangements, contact or child support orders, family court judges will:  

  • look at how serious the violence is
  • see how it affects your children
  • and check for conflicts with other court actions.

Criminal charges or restraining orders are examples.

Get Child Support in Ontario

Ottawa wants to reduce child poverty by making sure child support orders are upheld. After March 1, 2021, Canada Revenue Agency can release tax information to Ontario judges or the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) to calculate child support. Getting child support will cost less too.

Using Ontario Family Law Services

That will be possible because provinces will be able to take over some child support tasks from family courts. Deciding or recalculating child support amounts will be faster. Once the new law is in, recalculations can be made at any time. If your ex-spouse moves, Ontario courts will vary support orders without going through courts in their new location.

Long Distance Disputes and Family Law 

Family lawyers will show you ways to resolve disputes without suing. Canada will also adopt the 1996 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and 2007 Hague Child Support Convention, making it easier for you if your spouse leaves Canada. 

More Cooperation, Fewer Family Fireworks 

Your relationship is over. Now is the time to show Ontario family court you can put out the family fireworks and have a healthy relationship with your ex. Or at least stay as safe as possible in difficult times. 

Legal Advice on Divorce Act Changes for Ontario Parents

Axess Law Ontario answers all your questions about the March 2021 Divorce Act changes. Virtual family lawyers are available by video conference 7 days a week, day or evening. In person appointments can be made with our licensed Ontario lawyers at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices. Dial toll-free to 877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto at 647-479-0118 or using our online booking form. 
Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s family law services.