On 22 May, 2018 the Liberal government introduced Bill C-78 to Parliament, which will, if enacted, amend the parenting provisions of the Divorce Act, the first significant change to this part of the legislation since it came into effect in 1986. Bill C-78 will affect the making of orders and agreements concerning children and parenting, including provisions that will:
- abandon the archaic “custody” and “access” terminology now in the Divorce Act, introducing more child focused concepts like “parenting time” and “parental responsibilities,” that are to be incorporated into “parenting plans;”
- encourage parents and professionals to settle disagreements outside of the court process, using mediation or other collaborative processes. However, they are not required by Bill C-78 to use such alternatives to the courts;
- encourage recognition of the importance of one parent supporting their child’s relationships with the other parent;
- specifically address issues of family violence, requiring courts to consider the effects of spousal abuse on both the immediate victims and the children;
- provide that the views and preferences of children should be considered by decision-makers: children must have a voice, but not necessarily a choice; and
- change the law governing cases where one parent wishes to relocate.
There are likely to be Parliamentary hearings on Bill C-78 in the Fall 2018, with enactment likely by the Winter of 2019. However, there is never certainty about the process of enacting legislation. There are contentious issues, including proposals for the inclusion of a presumption of “equal parenting time,” which is not in the present Bill.
See AFCC-O Response to Bill C-78 to view AFCC-O’s submissions to Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, September 10, 2018.
See Bala Divorce Reform June 2018 for a discussion parenting provisions of Bill C-78, and an argument against a presumption of “equal parenting time”.
See John Boyd Overview of Bill C78 – Pt 1 – June 2018 – A summary of parenting provisions of Bill C-78.
See John Boyd Overview of Bill C78 – Pt 2 – June 2018 – A summary of other provisions of Bill C-78, including provisions relating to support issues, interjurisdictional agreements and treaties.
There has been a significant increase in the number of self-represented family litigants, which causes concern for these individuals, their children and the family justice system. Data suggests that in over half of the family cases in Canada’s courts, one or both parties are without a lawyer. Inability to afford full representation by a lawyer is the single biggest factor, but other reasons include the rise of “do it yourself” social attitudes, increasing availability of self-help information from family justice institutions, and a perception among some self-represented litigants that having a lawyer may not result in a significantly better outcome. The AFCC-O is a partner in the Ontario Family Law Limited Scope Services Project which is an important initiative to help improve access to affordable family legal services.
For more information see Ontario’s Family Law Limited Scope Services Project