The New Divorce Act is now in Effect

On March 1st, 2021 changes to Divorce Act came into force. This federal act is the Canadian law on marriage breakdown and divorce. Originally slated to take effect in July 2020 but delayed due to the pandemic, these amendments constitute the first significant changes to the Divorce Act since 1997. It’s important to note that only some parts of the act have changed while others remain unchanged.

Changes to the Act

If you are looking for resources to share with your patrons, check out the Clicklaw Common Question “How do the changes to the Divorce Act affect me?” You’ll find a brief overview of key changes and links to free, online plain language sources written by trusted subject matter experts. We’ve included some of the text here to outline the changes in the Divorce Act:

Here are just a few essential points about the changes:

  • Changes in language and terminology to the Act made it more consistent with the BC provincial laws. It is more 'child centered'; for example, rather than "custody and access," we now have "parenting time."  
  • There is a new legal test to figure out what is in "the best interest of the child." 
  • There is a new legal test to help figure out what happens when one parent wants to move away from another parent – with or without the child/children. 
  • There are new duties for people getting divorced, for lawyers, and for the court meant to ensure the best interests of the child are being met and that alternative dispute resolution options outside of court are being explored where possible.  
  • There are considerations and new language around family violence, including new factors to work out the impacts of family violence. 

Several things are not changing: child support, spousal support, and the process for obtaining a divorce.

You'll also find links to two webinars. Changes to the Divorce Act from People's Law School is a great resource to share with patrons, and JP Boyd on Changes to the Divorce Act: Legal Reference Basics, Tips and Tricks, which is a great resource for you! 

Changes to Court Rules & Court Forms

The changes bring with them new Supreme Court Family Forms and new Provincial Court Family Rules. As of March 1st, 2021, Supreme Court registry staff will only accept the new Supreme Court Family Forms. You can direct patrons to the FAQ on the Ministry of Justice website for more information.  

The new Provincial Court Family Rules do not take effect until May 17th, 2021. The current rules will be fully replaced, including new court forms, new terminology and new processes. We’ll share more specific information and resources you can share with your patrons when the time comes.

Your Collections

Many of you may recall these changes being referenced in the 2020 Retention and Weeding List. LawMatters funding grants will be offered this spring to purchase new materials, but until that point, you may wish to include a cautionary note on your family law texts. You could use a shelf talker or even a sticker alerting patrons about the new laws and directing them to electronic sources they can consult in the meantime. For example:

As of March 1st, 2021, major changes in Canada’s federal divorce law are in effect. For more information on how those changes may affect your case, check out “How do the changes to the Divorce Act affect me?:

JP Boyd on Family Law Wikibook

2021 print editions of this resource will be sent to all public libraries once the revisions are complete. John-Paul Boyd, QC and team are working on updating the content and we’ll be in touch as soon as we have a clearer timeline. In the meantime, you can direct your patrons to the electronic version where you’ll see two new chapters:

If your patrons prefer print, pdf versions are linked above.  Remember, you can use the “Print/Export” option to download and print any section or chapter of any wikibook you like. Scroll down to the bottom of any given page and look to the left hand navigation panel. There you will see your “Print/Export” options. If you need a hand, please just get in touch!