Government delays Divorce Act amendments coming into force in response to requests from justice partners due to COVID-19 pandemic
June 5, 2020 – Ottawa, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada
Divorce and separation are a reality for many Canadians, and ensuring that the family justice system can effectively respond to the needs of families in these situations is critical. That is why the Government of Canada took action by changing Canada’s federal family laws to promote the best interests of the child, address family violence, help reduce child poverty, and make the family justice system more accessible and efficient.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges on many fronts for Canadians, as well as for the operations of governments, courts and the family justice system.
Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced the delay of the coming into force of changes to the Divorce Act, which was scheduled for July 1, 2020. Due to extraordinary circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the coming into force date has been deferred until March 1, 2021.
Many courts across the country are currently hearing only urgent family law matters, and governments are focused on addressing pandemic-related urgencies and priorities. All of this has made it impossible to undertake the necessary steps for implementation. We understand the changes to the Divorce Act are highly anticipated by family law professionals, provincial and territorial partners and Canadians affected by separation and divorce. However, our partners throughout the family justice system need enough time to implement the legislative changes, including by adjusting their own laws and regulations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the operation of governments, courts and Canada’s family justice system. 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. We understand how important the changes to the Divorce Act are to Canadians affected by separation and divorce, especially to vulnerable family members. We are working hard with our partners to implement these changes.”
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
On June 21, 2019, the Government of Canada welcomed the Royal Assent of former Bill C-78, which modernizes and strengthens federal family laws, following its careful review by Parliament. This marks the first substantive changes to federal family laws in more than 20 years.
Bill C-78 amended three federal family 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, while changes to federal support enforcement laws that did not come into force on Royal Assent will come into force at different times over the next two to three years.