Alberta’s Influence On Proposed Divorce Act Changes

On behalf of Gary Kirk of Kirk Montoute Dawson LLP posted in Family Law on Monday, June 4, 2018.

For the first time in over 20 years, significant changes are being proposed in regards to Canada’s Divorce Act, partly due to Albertan influence. The amendments, if approved, would include a focus on mediation and arbitration as well as swapping out terms such as ‘access time’ and ‘custody’ with the more child-centred ‘parenting time’ and ‘parenting orders’.

A Historic Change For Canadian Family Law

Bill C-78, which were tabled at the House of Commons, marks a significant shift in the way that children are considered during the divorce process. In Alberta, as well as in British Columbia, the term ‘child access’ has been in favour for some time, indicating a willingness to move away from a previously divisive and confrontational approach to divorce.

According to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, the introduction of Bill C-78 marks a historic change for Canadian family law. By reducing conflict and working towards ensuring that support obligations are fulfilled, she explains, the best interests of children are being promoted.

A Shift Towards Alternative Dispute Resolution

Among several proposed amendments is the push to make the family justice system less reliant on the courts. In addition to being expensive, court-based divorce proceedings tend to take on a more adversarial edge. By promoting the use of mediation and arbitration, families stand to benefit from the more cooperative, solutions-oriented approach.

Mediation and arbitration, both forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), offer families a way towards achieving workable solutions without the stress, cost, and time typically associated with litigation. Through experienced ADR lawyers, many Albertans already have access to this often preferred form of dispute resolution.

Regardless of where the proposed amendments take the Divorce Act, a focus on ensuring that the needs of children are prioritized and exploring increased cooperation and efficiency stands to benefit Canadians both provincially and nationally. 

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