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What You Need to Know About the New Canadian Divorce Act

On March 1, 2021, the Canadian Divorce Act was amended to include a section on family violence. This marks the first significant change to federal family law in more than 20 years. Here is an overview of what you need to know.


Definition of Family Violence

Under the new Divorce Act, the definition of family violence has been broadened to include any behaviour that is violent, threatening, coercive and controlling, or causes a family member to fear for their safety or the safety of another person.

The new act also stipulates that some non-criminal behaviours can be considered family violence. As such, it includes a section on different ways that children can experience family violence, such as:

Having violence and abuse directed at them

Seeing or hearing someone being violent toward a family member

Seeing a family member scared or injured

Consequently, physical, sexual, financial, emotional and psychosocial abuse, as well as threats and harassment, can now all be considered family violence.

Parenting Arrangements

The maximum contact principle, which stressed that children benefit from spending as much time with each parent as possible, has been removed from the Divorce Act. This means that all parenting arrangements must now be determined based on an analysis of the child's best interests.

The new act also lists factors that judges must consider when determining the impact of family violence on parenting arrangements, such as:

The nature, severity and frequency of the abuse

The risk of harm to the child

Whether the person engaging in the violence has taken any steps to prevent further violence and improve their parenting

In addition, judges must take into account whether there are any current or pending civil protection, child protection or criminal proceedings or orders related to the divorcing couple.

Furthermore, the terms "custody" and "access" have been replaced with the words "decision-making", "parenting time" and "contact", which focus more on each parent's responsibility to their child.

According to the federal government, the 2021 Divorce Act amendments aim to help to reduce child poverty and make Canada's family justice system more accessible and efficient. For a more detailed summary of the latest amendments, you can visit the Department of Justice website.

Child Custody Lawyers in Newfoundland

Filing for divorce, dealing with parenting arrangement disputes and handling spousal support claims can be long, difficult and exhausting legal processes. If you  need a lawyer to help you through this challenging time, you can rely on Gittens & Associates in St. John's, Newfoundland. Our team of lawyers will take care of the legal proceedings while protecting your rights and interests. Contact us today for a free consultation.


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