C-78: Update on amendments to the Divorce Act

woman holds childs hand

Bill C-78, which passed Third Reading in the Senate on Wednesday, contains significant changes to the Divorce Act and may soon become law.

The full name of C-78 is An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act.

Why does Bill C-78 matter?

Even though every year thousands of people in Canada separate and resolve their legal issues without relying on the Divorce Act, Bill C-78 matters to all of us. The new measures it introduces to the Divorce Act clearly identify family violence as a consideration in divorce proceedings, recognizing coercive control and other forms of abuse.

When passed, the changes will apply to people in every part of Canada, with no regional variation. A Divorce Act with greater clarity and more detail will serve as a model for future revisions to provincial/territorial legislation. It will be a reference point for judges in all family law cases.

Recognizing family violence

Luke’s Place, in collaboration with NAWL (National Association of Women and the Law), submitted a Joint Brief on Bill C-78 and testified as witnesses before the Standing Committee in Ottawa in November.

In the Observations submitted by the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on C-78, the Committee acknowledged “the gendered nature of family violence and notes that the majority of victims of spousal violence – both during the marriage and at the point of separation – are women”, referencing Statistics Canada, Luke’s Place and NAWL.

The Observations integrate comments from the Minister of Justice, David Lametti, who identified the extreme importance of family violence training for family law and child protection practitioners as recommended by Luke’s Place. This would include:

  • that all law societies require family law professionals to use a universal family violence screening tool
  • training for all family law professionals on how to administer and score a family violence screening and respond appropriately based on the results.

See the Luke’s Place report on family violence screening tools for family law practitioners on the Justice website.