Do you want to read about the new Divorce Act changes? The sudden change to Canada’s Divorce Act has required divorce lawyers to change the way they practice family law. The question is, will they do it?
Divorce laws have not been updated in Canada for over twenty years. These changes happened due to the campaigning of women and children’s rights groups. Statistics Canada data showed that over a four-year period, a women’s risk of being killed by an ex-spouse increased 600% when they separated.
People often email me late at night saying they are in danger. If you ever feel you are in danger, contact the police. A law firm won’t be able to come to your house and protect you.
Police can keep you safe, lawyers can help you get restraining orders, no-contact orders, and assist you in getting custody of your child. Prior to the new law changes, no part of Canada’s Divorce Act dealt with family violence. Preventing violence is clearly in the best interests of the children.
Here’s What You Need to Know About Canada’s Divorce Act
Many divorce attorneys are incentivized by the adverse nature of Canada’s family law system. It’s not always the lawyer’s fault. When most clients contact a family law firm, they are very angry. They want to punish their ex-spouse.
If a non-contested legal issue would take 15 hours to resolve, at $350/hour, that would cost $5250 in legal fees. If a contested legal issue takes 100 hours, at $350/hour, that would cost $35,000.
You can see why some lawyers wouldn’t want to correct aggressive behavior from their clients. However, the new laws require lawyers to push their clients away from the court.
Lawyers will need to be able to incorporate domestic abuse allegations into their family claims. They will also need to be willing to push their clients towards non-court solutions. These include mediation and arbitration, commonly referred to as med-arb.
Canada’s Divorce Act is complex, so speak to a lawyer.
Best Interests Of The Child
The new divorce law expands on the original concept of the “best interests of the child,” which really meant whatever the judge wanted it to mean. The new laws focus on family violence and custody battles.
Before the changes, there was a very inflexible definition of what a judge should consider family violence. The updated version includes harassment, controlling behavior, stalking, failing to provide basic needs, threats to property, and other non-physical violence. Now courts must also consider domestic abuse in their child custody decisions.
Lawyers will need to undergo new legal education, normally done through the Continuing Legal Education Society, to better under family violence.
Canada’s Divorce Act And Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is one of the dark areas of separation. Not only does it take up a lot of the family court’s time, but the police often have to get involved. It’s responsible for many of the Amber Alert text messages that you may have received in the past.
Lawyers need to reframe their client’s thoughts away from “win or lose,” and to focus on their children and on the family’s best interest. The family will change, but once you have a child with someone, you are family forever.
Alistair Vigier is the CEO of ClearWay Law, a website that connects people with family law attorneys in Canada.