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Divorce and separation is a reality for many Canadians, and ensuring the family justice system can effectively respond to the needs of families in these situations is critical. That is why the Government of Canada took action by introducing Bill C-78, which modernizes and strengthens federal family laws.
Today, the Government welcomed the Royal Assent of Bill C-78 following its careful review by Parliament, marking the first substantive changes to federal family laws in more than 20 years. Three federal laws have been amended: the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act (FOAEAA) and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act (GAPDA).
The legislation has four key objectives:
1- promote the best interests of the child
2- address family violence
3- help reduce child poverty, and
4- make Canada's family justice system more accessible and efficient.
A variety of measures in the legislation will streamline processes and reduce the need for court intervention to resolve family law issues, making the system more accessible and affordable for all. This is especially true for provinces that have established, or are moving towards, Unified Family Courts.
It is important to note that many of the changes do not take effect immediately upon Royal Assent. As time is needed for the public, family justice professionals, and various levels of government to adjust to the changes within the family justice system, the majority of the amendments to the Divorce Act will only come into force approximately one year from now. Other amendments to FOAEAA and GAPDA will come into force either on Royal Assent or over the next two years.
These changes to federal family law establish specific factors that courts must consider when assessing what's in a child's best interests -- based entirely on that child's own situation and not a one-size-fits-all approach.
To better protect children, federal family law now makes it clear that courts must take family violence into account when determining parenting arrangements.
The legislation includes several amendments intended to make family justice more accessible and reduce the need to go to court to resolve family law issues.
This include the right to divorce proceedings in both official languages.
According to the Census, in 2016 over 2 million children were living in separated or divorced families. Five million Canadians separated or divorced between 1991 and 2011. Of those, about 38% had a child together at the time of their separation or divorce.