Family Law Amendments and Significance for Educators

  • 22 mars 2021
  • Kimberley Ishmael, Keel Cottrelle LLP, and Shamim Fattahi, Algieri-Boileau Legal

Important legislative amendments to provisions of the federal Divorce Act, RSC 1985, c 3 (2nd Supp) and the provincial Children’s Law Reform Act (CLRA), RSO 1990, c. C12 took effect on March 1, 2021.

The Divorce Act amendments were made through Bill C-78 (An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, SC 2019, c 16), and were originally scheduled to come into force on July 1, 2020; however, the Government of Canada deferred the effective date to March 1st, 2021 due to the extraordinary circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Provisions of the CLRA were amended under the Moving Ontario Family Law Forward Act, 2020, SO 2020 c 25, which received Royal Assent on November 20, 2020 amending multiple pieces of family law legislation. Some of the CLRA amendments took effect March 1, 2021, in alignment with the effective date of similar Divorce Act amendments.

Key Changes to Terminology 

One of the notable changes from the amendments is the change in terminology. The well-known terms of “custody” and “access” are now repealed and replaced with “decision-making responsibility” and “parenting time”. Decision-making responsibility provides persons granted that responsibility with the ability to make significant decisions about a child’s well-being, including in respect of health, education, culture, language, religion, spirituality, and significant extra-curricular activities. Parenting time means the time that a child spends in the care of a parent of the child (e.g. either a spouse or any individual in the place of a parent), whether or not the child is physically with that parent/person during that entire time. A person to whom parenting time is allocated by court order (or allocated by way of a schedule) will have exclusive authority to make, during that time, day-to-day decisions affecting the child.