Focus On

Implementation of Divorce Act reforms postponed from July 2020 to March 2021 due to COVID-19

Tuesday, June 09, 2020 @ 12:41 PM | By Cristin Schmitz

Ottawa is delaying its planned implementation of much-anticipated federal Divorce Act reforms by eight months — from July 1, 2020, until March 1, 2021 — in order to give the pandemic-pre-occupied provinces and territories more time to get ready.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the operation of governments, courts and Canada's family justice system,” Justice Minister David Lametti said in his June 5 announcement. “After consultation with the provinces and territories, we have determined that a delay in the coming into force of changes to the Divorce Act is necessary to ensure they have sufficient time to adjust their laws and regulations to reflect the legislative changes in the Divorce Act,” he explained. “We are working hard with our partners to implement these changes.”

Lametti noted that many courts across the country are currently hearing only urgent family law matters, while governments are mostly focused on addressing COVID-19-related “urgencies and priorities.”

“All of this has made it impossible to undertake the necessary steps for implementation,” a Department of Justice press release asserts.

Bill C-78, which received royal assent June 21, 2019, will amend three federal laws: the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act.

Most of the amendments to the Divorce Act were to come into force on July 1, 2020. However changes to federal support enforcement laws that did not come into force last June will come into force “at different times over the next two to three years,” the government’s press release states.

The delayed changes include a raft of Divorce Act provisions on post-divorce parenting, including a framework for dealing with the highly contentious issue of relocation of children, as well as sections dealing with child support, family violence and parental abduction.

Certain technical amendments to the Divorce Act came into force when royal assent was granted last year, such as updated regulation-making authority and authority for the minister of justice to undertake research and other activities.