Family Law: What Is Changing? at Handa Law
Family Law: What Is Chan...
Aug 09, 2019, Admin

Family Law: What Is Changing?
Divorce can be challenging, stressful and painful. It is at once a personal battle, as well as a legal one, for married spouses to face. For a self-represented party, it is especially cumbersome to navigate the court system, to understand the applicable legislation (i.e. the Divorce Act) and to comply with the rules of procedure. The time-consuming, expensive, and conflict-driven family law system adds an extra layer of difficulty to an already complex situation. The challenges that come with divorce proceedings are further exacerbated when children of the marriage are involved. Instead of prioritizing what is in the best interests of the children, their parents often focus on becoming bitter and resentful towards one-another.

It is always advisable to contact a knowledgeable and experienced family lawyer who can help you navigate this legal process, so you can be confident that you are making informed decisions and taking advantage of the most appropriate avenues available towards the resolution of your matter. This is particularly relevant now, as some important changes are being introduced to the legislation, as outlined below.

Bill C-78: What You Need to Know
On May 22nd, the federal government introduced new legislation they hope will ease some of the legal burdens and challenges for divorcing couples and their children. The proposed legislation will need to be debated and passed through Parliament before it becomes law, but if successful, it could help protect children in high-conflict divorces.

Best Interests of the Child
The focus of this legislation will be to further the best interests of the children, with the introduction of child-centered, non-adversarial language, and a list of factors to consider when determining what will best assure the well-being of the child(ren). Factors such as family / domestic violence, which have always been considered in the past, will be codified in a more detailed and robust way. Other factors that will be considered include the psychological, emotional, and physical safety of the children, the children’s views, children’s relationship with their immediate family, and spiritual and cultural needs.

The language behind “custody” and “access” terminology will also be re-examined, acknowledging that in many cases parents upon separation can equally co-parent and share responsibilities with respect to their children’s upbringing, education, health and extra-curricular activities. This is why more neutral and nuances concepts, such as “parenting time” and “responsibilities” will become utilized in order to put children and their interests first. Conflict-driven language and win-and-lose arguments over parents’ rights can thereby be eliminated.

Child Support
Divorced parties will be able to apply to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for detailed income information in order to make more appropriate decisions about child support payments in the event that Bill C-78 is passed.

Alternative Dispute Resolution
Another focus of the legislation will be to encourage families to use dispute resolution avenues, like mediation, that are available as less adversarial alternatives to courtroom litigation. Under the proposed changes, lawyers or other legal advisors will be required to encourage families to access these alternative dispute resolution processes, and to provide information or notify families of known services in the area.

A couple going through divorce will also be obliged to first try to resolve their dispute outside of court. This will apply in appropriate circumstances. Since the new legislation does not necessarily clarify what these are, it is recommended that you contact a lawyer who can help guide you to appropriate services or help you decide whether alternative dispute resolution is a good option in your case.

Why these changes?
There have been no substantive changes or updates to family law legislation for over two decades, despite advocates calling for changes to make the system more robust, accessible, and cost-effective. Most argue that the litigation process is not only time-consuming and stressful, but riddled with complex paperwork, especially in contested divorces that involve significant assets or businesses, and conflicting views on parenting and support. There have also been a number of proposals to move the system away from the conflict-driven adversarial approach that has coloured divorce proceedings for decades. The new legislation is an attempt to address some of these concerns.

Although the proposed legislation is an attempt to make divorce proceedings less adversarial, and to better support children caught in the middle of high-conflict relationships, it won’t eliminate all the challenges and difficult decisions you may have to make. Contacting an experienced family law lawyer in high-conflict divorces is one way you can ease this burden and ensure that you are making the right decisions for you and your children.
 
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