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Canada’s Divorce Act updated

Good news for family lawyers and law firms like Donich Law, as Canada’s Divorce Act recently got updated to provide better protection for children and abused spouses.

The updates, the first major changes to the Act in over 2 decades, came into effect on March 1, 2021. Among their changes is a list of factors that courts have to consider when accounting for a child’s well-being for verdicts, which include the impact of family violence.

Notably, the previous version of the Act made no references to family violence, as reported by the Department of Justice. These changes recognize that family separation can often lead to violence and have detrimental effects on children, according to the DOJ.

According to the Department, Statistics Canada’s data showed that, between 2007 and 2011, a woman’s risk of being murdered by her former spouse was a full six times higher than the risk of a woman being killed by a spouse she was living with, noting the correlation.

Child Witness Centre Executive Director David Morneau, a non-practicing family lawyer, says that the update is a good step forward, recognizing the nuances of domestic violence. He notes that domestic abuse is more than just physical abuse, encompassing sexual, financial, and psychological abuse.

Courts are now required to consider family violence when making parenting and contact arrangement for separation verdicts, with the ability to deny co-parenting if the court deems that it would only lead to more violence.

The changes to the Divorce Act also align federal legislation better with certain provincial legislation. Additionally, it’ll provide a unified legal framework for the whole of Canada, according to Associate Professor of Social Work Michael Saini, University of Toronto.

He notes that Canada now has family violence in national legislation, which is huge for families, law firms like Donich Law, and the legislative body as a whole. Saini says it connects the country by providing a consistent and unified approach on handling violence for divorce cases.

Other changes in the Divorce Act include changing ‘custody order’ to ‘parenting order’, which is aimed at cutting down the perception that someone wins and someone loses for divorce cases.


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