Liberals propose overhaul of Divorce Act to put the interests of children first

May 22, 2018

The Liberal government is overhauling Canada's federal divorce laws, with the goal of making the best interests of children the top priority in all decisions.

Bill C-78, which was tabled Tuesday in the House of Commons, also takes steps to address family violence and child poverty. It's the first major revamp of divorce law in more than 20 years.

The bill adopts neutral terminology, dropping terms like "custody" and "access" in favour of "parenting orders" and "parenting time." The changes aim to put an end to the adversarial win-or-lose approach to legal decisions on parenting arrangements, according to background material from the Department of Justice.

Under the proposed changes, a court would have to consider a specific set of factors to ensure its decisions are made in the interest of serving the child's physical, emotional and psychological safety and wellbeing.

Other factors the courts have to consider under the bill include the nature and strength of a child's relationship with parents, grandparents and other important people in their life, the child's linguistic, cultural and spiritual heritage (including Indigenous heritage), and the child's own views and preferences.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould called the bill's introduction a "historical occasion" for family law in Canada and said the changes will make the system less adversarial and more efficient.


"Separation and divorce are stressful enough without considering financial burdens and the emotional pain that can result, especially for children," she said during a news conference on Parliament Hill. "That is why so much of what we are proposing today is promoting the best interests of the child by reducing conflict, addressing family violence and ensuring family support obligations are met."

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