Navigating the Evolving Landscape of Family Law: A Comprehensive Overview of Recent Changes in the Divorce Act.
At TMB Law, we recognize the importance of staying abreast of legal developments, especially when it comes to family law. The recent amendments to the Divorce Act, effective March 1, 2021, have introduced significant transformations, impacting areas such as decision-making, family violence, the best interests of the child, dispute resolution, and relocation. As dedicated legal practitioners, we are committed to guiding our clients through these changes with clarity and expertise.
Decision-Making: A Shift in Language and Perspective
Formerly referred to as custody, decision-making now encompasses the responsibility for determining a child's medical, educational, and religious needs. The updated Divorce Act aligns with British Columbia's Family Law Act, replacing the terminology of "custody" and "access" with "decision-making," "parenting time," and "contact." This shift is pivotal, as court orders issued after March 1, 2021, must adhere to the new language.
Broadening the Definition of Family Violence: A Protective Measure
The amended Divorce Act takes a comprehensive approach to family violence, recognizing various forms such as physical violence, psychological abuse, financial abuse, and harm to animals. Importantly, family violence is no longer confined to criminal offenses and must be proven based on a balance of probabilities, a civil burden of proof. This change safeguards victims of abuse, even in cases where criminal charges may not have been pursued.
Best Interests of the Child: A Singular Focus
Emphasizing the "child's best interest" as the sole consideration in determining parenting orders, the Divorce Act outlines specific factors to assess this interest comprehensively. These factors include the child's needs, the nature of relationships, each spouse's willingness to support the child's relationships, and cultural, linguistic, religious, and spiritual considerations. The removal of the "maximum contact principle" underscores the paramount importance of the child's best interest.
Dispute Resolution: Encouraging Alternatives to Court
The amended Divorce Act places increased emphasis on resolving disputes outside the court system. Lawyers are mandated to inform and encourage clients to participate in alternative dispute resolution methods like negotiation, mediation, or collaborative law. This proactive approach aligns with the positive experiences reported by clients who have found these alternatives beneficial both financially and emotionally.
Relocation: Clarifying Procedures for Moving with Children
The new Divorce Act introduces clear procedures for three relocation scenarios, providing guidance for situations where a child's primary parent wishes to move. Specific rules govern scenarios where the move will or will not significantly impact the child's relationship with others having parenting time, contact, or decision-making responsibilities. The burden of proof in contested relocations varies based on the existing parenting arrangement, ensuring a nuanced approach to each case.
At TMB Law, we recognize the importance of these legislative changes and are well-equipped to guide our clients through the evolving landscape of family law. Whether you are seeking advice on decision-making, addressing family violence concerns, determining the best interests of your child, exploring dispute resolution options, or navigating relocation issues, our experienced team is here to provide informed and compassionate legal assistance. If you're in need of a divorce lawyer in Oshawa, Whitby, Durham, or the GTA, contact us at TMB Law to schedule a Zoom consultation and address your questions regarding the new Divorce Act.