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Divorce Act – changes as for July 1, 2020

The Federal Government will be making changes to the Divorce Act as of July 1, 2020.

The Divorce Act applies to “married couples” who are separating. The Divorce Act does not apply to “common-law couples”.

The amendments are to come into effect on July 1, 2020. There will be several changes as a result of those amendments, however, the significant changes, in my view, will be the following:

  1. Parenting responsibilities v. custody

With respect to custody, the outdated notion of “custody” and “access” will now be removed from our common everyday vocabulary. Lawyers and Judges have, for many years now, tried to refrain from using such words preferring to talk about “parental responsibilities”.

Therefore, as of July 1, 2020, the terms “custody” and “access” will be removed from the Divorce Act. We will now talk about “parenting time” and “parenting responsibilities”.

With respect to “parental responsibilities”, the parents and their lawyers will now be negotiating agreements which will define the responsibilities of parents with respect to the health, education and activities (and other questions) regarding their children. Those responsibilities can be shared by the parents or exercised by one parent alone.

The second significant change to the Divorce Act concerns the rights of grandparents (and other family members) with respect to children. It is well known that separations have, at times, affected the rights of grandparents to see their grandchildren. The amendments to the Divorce Act will allow for a “non-parent”, such as a grandparent, to apply to a Court for the right to spend some time with their grandchildren.

More information will be provided as we receive the final revised Divorce Act.

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