Offices in Ottawa and Perth
(613) 722-1500

CONTACT US (613) 722-1500

Semblance of Consistency and Protection: Moving Ontario Family Law Forward Act, 2020

Semblance of Consistency and Protection: Moving Ontario Family Law Forward Act, 2020

By:

Posted March 1, 2021

On November 20, 2020, the Moving Ontario Family Law Forward Act, 2020 (Bill 207), received Royal Assent and will be proclaimed into law as of March 1, 2021. As a significant omnibus bill, Bill 207 will make changes to the Children’s Law Reform Act (CLRA), the Courts of Justice Act (CJA), and the Family Law Act (FLA).

One of the goals of Bill 207 is to align the CLRA with the upcoming changes to the Federal Divorce Act – changes that are being implemented as of March 2021. These CLRA amendments attempt to ensure that parents within the family law regime have a consistent experience, whether they are in the process of a divorce (subject to federal law) or not (subject to provincial law). A crucial step towards this alignment is the change of key terminology within the family law paradigm. Under Part III of the CLRA, the term “custody” will be replaced with “decision-making responsibility” and “access” will be replaced with “parenting time” – aligning the terminology with that found in the Divorce Act.

Bill 207 also amends the CLRA by creating a much more comprehensive definition of “family violence.” Once Bill 207 is proclaimed, the CLRA will have the following definition in section 18(1):

“ “family violence” means any conduct by a family member towards another family member that is violent or threatening, that constitutes a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour, or that causes the other family member to fear for their own safety or for that of another person, and, in the case of a child, includes direct or indirect exposure to such conduct;”

The abusive conduct discussed in the above definition need not be a criminal offence and can include physical abuse; forceful confinement; sexual abuse; threats of harm; harassment and stalking; psychological and financial abuse; failing to provide necessities of life; and harm, or threats of harm, to animals.

This new legislated definition of family violence is an important step forward to tackling the systemic forces women and children face when attempting to flee abusive situations while concurrently addressing their family law matters. This can primarily be seen through the assistance provided to the victimized parent in obtaining a parenting or contact order through the legislated “best-interest of the child” analysis. This analysis will include a thorough assessment of any “family violence” inflicted upon the household by either parent as per the new expanded definition. Therefore, theoretically, it should allow abused women and children leave abusive households more easily.

However, there are continued concerns with how the newly established regime will treat parenting decisions in relation to situations involving family violence. Section 20 of the CLRA continues to prioritize shared decision-making of both parents – short of situations where a court order is in place. Furthermore, section 28(6) of the CLRA offers “exclusive authority” of a parent, during their established parenting time (visitation), to make decisions pertaining to the child. Thus, the wording of this legislation continues to leave the door open for manipulative and abusive partners to establish control through decision making for a child’s “best interests.” A power given to these partners by the statutory primacy of shared decision-making.

The amendments brought in by Bill 207 are part of the government’s direct response to industry professionals and families advocating for change within the family law system. The true impact of these changes is yet to be seen. However, the amendments are very likely to have an impact on families experiencing violence at the hands of an abusive partner, for better or worse.

Thank you to Articling Student Filip Szadurski for writing this blog.  For further information, please contact Kate Wright, a member of the Family Law, Wills and Estates and Litigation teams.  She can be reached at 613-369-0383 or at kate.wright@mannlawyers.com.

More Resources

Blog |
Family Law
By: 
Co-parenting with your ex-partner can be challenging. It involves constant coordination and communication about various aspects of your children’s lives. Whether it is about schedules,[...]
Blog |
Wills, Trusts and Estates
By: 
Over time, individuals could acquire assets in different jurisdictions that are governed by different legal systems. Similar to the consideration of double wills in distinguishing[...]
Blog |
Family Law
By: 

Posted January 31, 2024

In the first part of this series, we reviewed the background, trial, and appeal to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in Anderson v Anderson. This[...]
Blog |
Practice Management
By: 

Posted January 26, 2024

On July 17, 1797, ten lawyers were present at the Wilson’s Hotel in Newark, Upper Canada, to read “An Act for the better regulating the[...]
Blog |
Business Law
By: 

Posted January 23, 2024

A not-for-profit corporation incorporated pursuant to the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (the “CNCA”) is required to maintain certain records, including records as to its members,[...]
Blog |
Employment, Labour, and Human Rights
By: 

Posted January 17, 2024

In November of 2023, the Ontario government introduced new legislation, once again, amending the Employment Standards Act, strengthening employment and labour laws in the province.[...]
Kate Wright

Kate Wright

I am a member of the family law, wills and estates and estate litigation service groups at Mann Lawyers. I am an enthusiastic and compassionate advocate for my clients. My experience in family law includes advising clients on property division, support issues, custody and access matters, domestic contracts and private adoptions. I assist clients with preparing wills, estate planning and administration matters, and disputes over estates, including issues related to capacity and dependent’s relief. My approach to dispute resolution is based on the needs of each client and their own particular circumstances. I am trained in Collaborative Practice and am a member of Collaborative Practice Ottawa. I seek to empower clients to resolve issues in the manner that best suits their interests. I graduated from the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in 2008. I articled with a national firm in Calgary and was called to the Alberta Bar... Read More

Read More About Kate Wright

Kate Wright

I am a member of the family law, wills and estates and estate litigation service groups at Mann Lawyers. I am an enthusiastic and compassionate advocate for my clients. My experience in family law includes advising clients on property division, support issues, custody and access matters, domestic contracts and private adoptions. I assist clients with preparing wills, estate planning and administration matters, and disputes over estates, including issues related to capacity and dependent’s relief. My approach to dispute resolution is based on the needs of each client and their own particular circumstances. I am trained in Collaborative Practice and am a member of Collaborative Practice Ottawa. I seek to empower clients to resolve issues in the manner that best suits their interests. I graduated from the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in 2008. I articled with a national firm in Calgary and was called to the Alberta Bar... Read More

Read More About Kate Wright

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

"*" indicates required fields

Name*
Consent*
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.