Recent Changes to the Divorce Act

Jordan Welsh

As of March 1, 2021, significant changes to the Divorce Act came into effect. It is important to be aware of these changes as they may affect your rights and obligations relating to your family law matter and the breakdown of your marriage. The changes were made with the hopes of promoting the best interests of the children and making the family justice system more efficient. They are the first substantive changes to federal laws in more than twenty years.


Below is a short overview of some of the major changes to the Act. For a more detailed explanation of each change to the Act, please click here.

Parenting Terminology

The terms “custody” and “access” have been replaced with the more child focused terms “decision-making responsibility” and “parenting time”.

The term “contact order” has also been implemented. Contact orders can be sought by third parties such as grandparents who wish to communicate with or visit the child(ren).


Best Interests of the Child(ren)

When making a parenting order or contact order, the court is now required to only take into consideration the best interests of the child(ren). The court is required to give primary consideration to the child(ren)’s physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being. Section 16(3) of the Act also provides a list of specific factors to consider when making parenting arrangements that are in the best interests of the child(ren).


Family violence

Section 2(1) of the Act now adds a broad definition of the term “family violence”. Under the Act,” conduct by a family member towards another family member which can amount to “family violence” can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, threats to kill or harm another person, psychological abuse, financial abuse and threats to kill or harm and animal or damage property.

The definition also clarifies that the behaviour does not have to be a criminal offence or meet the criminal threshold of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” to be considered “family violence” under the Act.



A person who has parenting time or decision-making responsibility of a child who wishes to relocate must give 60 days notice of the proposed move to anyone else who has parenting time, decision-making responsibility or contact with the child. This notice period is intended to provide parties the opportunity to discuss the proposed relocation and attempt to resolve any related issues.


Dispute Resolution

Under the Act, parties to a proceeding are now required to attempt to resolve their matters through a family dispute resolution process, to the extent that it is appropriate to do so. Family dispute resolution can include attempting to resolve matters by way of negotiation, mediation, or arbitration. In some cases, it can be faster and less expensive to resolve issues through negotiation or other dispute resolution processes than through court proceedings. Our team of lawyers at Stoner & Company Family can assist clients in a wide variety of alternative dispute resolution services


New Parental Responsibilities

The Act includes express language intended to impress the following duties on parents: 1) exercising their responsibilities in the best interests of the child(ren), 2) protecting children from conflict resulting from a divorce proceeding to the best of their ability, 3) trying to resolve matters through family dispute when appropriate, 4) providing complete, up-to-date financial information, and 5) complying with court orders as long as they apply.


This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion.

Stoner & Company Family Law helps clients resolve all family law matters. Our team of family lawyers are dedicated, professional and experienced. We are committed to getting the best possible outcomes for our clients efficiently and effectively. We’re in your corner.


Jordan Welsh Lawyer


Jordan Welsh is a lawyer at Stoner & Company Family Law in Oakville and Burlington.

905 632 8607.


Our offices in Burlington and Oakville are open and we are continuing to work normal business hours. In order to limit the spread of COVID-19 our lawyers and staff are available for meetings with current clients and initial consultations via email, telephone, and video conference. In person meetings can be arranged however we encourage virtual meetings at this time. Contact 905.632.8607 or