Big Changes to the Divorce Act Proposed

26 May 2018

Perhaps for the first time in 20 years, the Canadian Federal Government is proposing changes to the Divorce Act. The primary goal of these changes is protecting the children of divorce.

Bill C-78 has been a long time coming. That is why mediators across the country have been advocating for these changes. These are changes that will encourage families to seek alternatives to resolving family disputes. This includes arbitration and mediation but will also require family law professionals to inform and encourage those alternatives.

The bill would also make child support easier to resolve. Additionally, it will change the language of custody and access to both parenting time and responsibilities. There is more on the bill in the Globe and Mail: Federal government looks to put children first in Divorce Act overhaul.

A focus on co-parenting

Mediators everywhere should be excited about these changes. Good co-parenting is an important aspect of a divorce, and there are far too many high conflict situations. It is not the divorce itself that has the greatest impact, but the navigation process by the parents. The exposure of the children to the conflict also has a substantial impact. Toddler in Canadian T-shirt

It is essential to share parenting time, make child-focused schedules a priority, and develop ways to speak to children. However, divorcing parties often forget about these aspects during the process. 

Quality mediators will use proper wording for each situation. No one ‘has the children for March break’; the kids are simply spending March Break with mom or dad. This is certainly subtle, but language plays a huge part in how we view separation.

Although, no one feels this way, the wrong verbiage can make children seem like possessions. Never forget that they have the right to a healthy and happy relationship with each of their parents. A proper mediation will consider the needs of the children involved. The key is to determine the proper division of time between parents.

A hope that the Divorce Act will change things for the better

The court process, as it is, is long and expensive. It also is not the best for children of divorce. With these changes, this can be a huge first step in the right direction. Families should be seeking amicable alternatives, and their counsel should be guiding them.

Mediators can provide communication and conflict coaching as a way to help parents manage their lives. Divorcing parties get caught up in who did what, ignoring that the kids did not ask for this. The divorce act will hopefully help change that.

There has to be a better way to move through separation. The divorce act is helping to give divorcing parties a more successful way to mediate to a proper solution. This includes the benefit of the children, too. 

Update: Read about the March 1, 2021 changes to Canada's Divorce Act.