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Best Interests of the Child: Changes to the Divorce Act

As with any living document, The Federal Divorce Act is undergoing additional changes this year. While these changes were delayed from July 2020 due to Covid, their time has finally arrived and as of March 1, they will be implemented. We at Fresh Start Mediation, wanted to take the opportunity to discuss some of the changes here, what we liked, and what we thought was important.

Easier to Understand

Many times, we have heard parents coin the term ‘fight for custody’ to describe their fear of losing parenting time with their child. The truth is, how we describe something can often lead to how we feel about it. When it comes to Parenting, it is even more so.

The term ‘custody’ has been at the center of debate for quite some time. The feelings this word prescribe, result in one parent having presumed ownership over the children, and the other, a lowly secondary position. While that was never the intent, it would certainly evoke the feeling of dread many parents suffered when parenting was contested.

Decision-Making is the new term, and we feel it accurately represents the actions it was meant to reflect. When the child of the marriage is with one parent, that parent has decision-making responsibility for them. When parenting time is transferred to the other parent, they now carry that responsibility.

Even the term Parenting Time has been introduced to replace Access. With Custody and Access now gone, and decision-making and parenting time introduced, we now have a much more human understanding of the legal responsibilities’ parents may have. We feel it is a great start to help reframe what divorce and separation can be.

Best Interest of the Child

While this term may not be a new one, the descriptions therein are clearer than ever. To make things even more so, this term could be read as the best interest of your child. What works for one family, may not be suitable for yours. What works for one of your children, may not for another. A child’s heritage, bond with one parent or the other, beliefs, preferences and above all else, safety, are all considered, amongst many others as well.

In writing in and enforcing these changes, the power has now somewhat returned to the hands of the parents. It provides in-depth information into what parenting time with each parent could look like as is consistent with the best interest of the child. What relocation could do to affect that. How family violence is classified and defined to remain within those interests. And the duties now being enforced upon parents.

Family Dispute Resolution Process

It is generally faster and less expensive to resolve issues through negotiation or other dispute resolution processes than through court proceedings. In cases involving children, there are particular advantages to developing agreements through family dispute resolution processes…children often benefit from seeing their parents work together. And dispute resolution processes, such as mediation, usually aim to keep parents focused on the best interests of their children. These processes also tend to improve the communication skills divorcing spouses will need for years to come to resolve issues related to their children.

The above is taken directly form the Government of Canada’s Department of Justice website explaining the Divorce Act changes. And frankly, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Many will agree that the best interests of your child is a process that helps you come to agreement in a safe and supportive environment that helps you focus on the best practices to come to agreement.

Call us at 403.863.9700 for your Initial no-charge consultation and let’s get you started on your very own Fresh Start.

*The above is by no means a complete discussion into the changes, and the detailed Divorce Act changes can be found here.

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