It’s been more than 20 years since there have been changes made to Canada’s Divorce Act. On March 1, 2021, family lawyers and advocates for women’s and children’s rights were watching to see how recent changes would affect those who are living with domestic violence. Here’s what you need to know about the changes to Canada’s Divorce Act, and how they affect people going through divorces right now.
The Impact of Family Violence
When it comes to a divorce with children involved, the goal is to look out for the best interests of the children. This Act now specifically states there is a list of factors that the courts must consider, including the impact that family violence may have on the child.
Previously, there was no consideration concerning family violence that might come up during the period of family separation.
The Broad Definition of Family Violence
Many have the idea that family violence is strictly about physical abuse, but recent changes to the Act have broadened the definition of violence to include other acts that can affect women during a separation or divorce.
The definition of family violence in the Divorce Act has expanded to include:
The Reason for Change
Between 2007 and 2011, Statistics Canada found that a woman was six times more likely to be killed by a former spouse than to be killed by the partner she was living with.
In addition to this, the courts have changed the terminology for custody of children. Currently, it is called a custody order and it gives the idea that there are winners and losers – and that can create more violence within the family. Now it will be called a parenting order to make it more neutral and agreeable for everyone.
Experts know that power and control are at the root of all domestic violence, so changing the language has women’s crisis advocates hope that it can shift the dynamic and help avoid potential violence during an already emotional time.
Creating a More Careful Eye
While municipal police forces know that not all women will report violence or call the police when their partner is violent towards them, public officials are hopeful that these changes will help to create a more watchful eye for women and children going through a separation.
The justice system may need more training and education on recognizing the signs of abuse. If they don’t, then having these changes to the law isn’t going to help as many as it should since many incidents will go unreported.
Officials in the justice system will be working closely with the provinces and territories to provide the appropriate training and public education to address issues of violence as they become apparent. They will also need to review the laws frequently to make sure they are benefiting those they are meant to protect.
Going through a divorce is an emotionally trying time for everyone involved: it can bring out the very worst in people and sometimes they act in ways they never have before. Living with family violence can feel lonely and scary, and the thought of your child spending time with someone who is stalking you or withholding money from you can feel hopeless. With these changes, it is hopeful that victims of family violence can go through divorce proceedings safely and get the outcome that protects them.
If you are going through a divorce or are feeling threatened by a former spouse, a family lawyer can help. Contact Marcy Segal today to schedule a consultation.