Canada’s Divorce Act modernized
CALGARY -- The federal government has revamped legislation in hopes couples won’t have to go through custody battles during a divorce.
As of Monday, significant changes have been made to Canada’s Divorce Act, which hasn’t seen substantial updates in more than 20 years.
The federal government said the aim of the legislation — which applies to legally married couples who are divorcing — is to put more emphasis on the best interests of a child.
"The children are at the centre of this legislation,” said Tahira Karim with Legal Aid Alberta.
"Parties are going to have to demonstrate how their decisions are going to impact the child and that impact better be positive."
For the first time, the Divorce Act mentions family violence and will require courts to consider any instances of abuse when making decisions.
“It’s a really big step forward in recognizing that violence could have a huge impact on the family and more importantly, impact on children,” said Karim.
Karim said the changes are a long time coming.
“We needed something that was written down, something that acknowledged various things that were happening in life and society that weren’t recognized by law,” said Karim.
The legislation also establishes guidelines for when one parent wants to relocate with a child.
“The more things written down there, the less you have to fight for yourself right,” said Livia Fajkusz, a mother of three whose divorce was finalized in January.
Fajkusz said her divorce was amicable but she believes the new laws will help other couples settle their differences outside court.
“For me the most important changes are they put a more detailed description about family violence … not just physical violence but mental, emotional abuse, financial abuse," she said.
Fajkusz is a life coach who now runs divorce coaching for parents. She said it's an emotional process.
“It’s an overwhelming thing going through divorce and taking care of the kids at the same time and dealing with your own feeling of loss," she said.
The reforms were schedule to go into effect July 1, 2020 but were postponed until March.
The government also said other objectives include helping to reduce child poverty and make Canada’s family justice system more accessible and efficient.
More details on the Divorce Act can be found on the Government of Canada’s website.