Liberal government introduces measures to update Canada's family laws


OTTAWA — The federal government has introduced new legislation that aims to help families settle disputes outside court, emphasize the well-being of impacted children and better enforce child support.

Justice officials say there have not been substantial updates to federal family laws in 20 years.

The legislation proposes "child-focused'' language, which means replacing terms like "custody'' and "access'' — terms that have been known to fuel conflict between parents — with "parenting orders'' and "parenting time.''

The proposed new measures would also address issues surrounding parents or children who relocate after a divorce and would, under some circumstances, allow authorities to use tax information to enforce child support payments.

In an interview with, Toronto family and criminal lawyer Leanne Townsend says the new legislation reflects the realities of modern-day parenting, and is consistent with the recommendations of the Canadian Bar Association.

“These changes are long overdue and more reflective of the times,” says Townsend, a partner with Brauti Thorning LLP. “It is also beneficial for the provinces and the federal government to be in sync with these things.”

Once passed, Bill C-78 would also require courts to take family violence and a number of other factors into account when deciding parenting arrangements.

Family violence has a substantial impact on family dynamics and power imbalances, Townsend says.

“It also significantly affects children who are raised with this dynamic in the home,” she says. “There are parents who abandon their desire to push for time with their children out of fear, and there are bullies who set the schedule through intimidation and control. These dynamics should always be considered.”

The proposed legislation would make changes to the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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