Fogelman Law’s Highlights of Recent Divorce Act Changes, Effective March 1, 2021

On March 1, 2021, substantial changes to the Divorce Act came into force, including changes to the language and substance surrounding parenting orders, changes relating to third-party parenting time, relocation, and other important parenting matters.

Over the next few months, Fogelman Law will offer brief summaries of these important changes and how these changes may impact your family. Each summary will focus on one specific change or amendment at a time.

Words Matter

As of March 1, 2021, the terms “custody” and “access” in the Divorce Act will be replaced with “decision-making responsibility” and “parenting time.” While this change may seem semantic or superficial, the shifts in language are critically important. The language change moves away from the notion of parenting as a right or something to be won or lost, and instead places greater emphasis on the interests of the children. Ultimately, these changes hope to avoid the harmful perception that “custody” battles ultimately produce a winner and a loser.

Accordingly, what were previously known as “orders for custody” and “orders for access” have now been renamed to “parenting orders” and “contact orders,” respectively. Parenting orders under S. 16.1 are available to spouses, parents of the child, and those who stand or intend to stand in the place of a parent.
It is important to note that these changes will only be effective for court orders made after March 1, 2021. Any “custody” and “access orders” made prior to March 1 do not need to be changed at court in order to reflect the new language.

To see a more detailed list of the changes, you can visit the Department of Justice website. If you have questions regarding a family law matter, contact our office and book a consultation to speak with one of our lawyers.