Ontario has introduced new legislation designed to help simplify Ontario’s current family law system.

Released on September 24, Bill 207, the Moving Ontario Family Law Forward Act, 2020 (“the Act”) will purportedly “make it easier, faster and more affordable for individuals and families to resolve family legal matters,” according to a government press release. Bill 207 comes in the wake of the federal government’s 2019 changes to Canada’s Divorce Act, which are to come into effect on March 1, 2021. If passed, Bill 207 will make it easier for parents to access similar legislation in resolving parenting issues after separation.

Stated Goals of Bill 207, the Moving Ontario Family Law Forward Act, 2000

If passed, the Act will modernize language, simplify appeal routes, and improve the existing online child support service. Speaking generally, the Act proposes three primary changes:

  1. Make the family law appeals process clearer and easier to navigate by:
    • clarifying when and how to appeal family law cases,
    • helping families reach final decisions faster in difficult cases, and
    • making the appeals process more consistent no matter where in the province a trial is heard.
  2. Align Ontario’s family laws with recent changes to the federal Divorce Act, including modernizing language around the terms “custody and access”, so they are consistent, clear and streamlined.
  3. Allow parents and caregivers to obtain certified copies of child support notices from the online child support service so support amounts can be more easily managed or enforced outside the province.

These proposed changes follow consultations between the province and various family law stakeholders including parents, children, child protection advocates, family lawyers, arbitrators and mediators.

“Families encounter the family law system in some of life’s most difficult moments, and the changes we are proposing will make the process easier to navigate and understand for parents and their children,” said Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey.

Province Taking Additional Steps to Streamline the Family Law Process

In addition to the changes proposed by the Act, Ontario is taking steps to remove the requirement for family arbitrators to file arbitration award reports with the Ministry in an effort to save time and money.

Further, the province is working with the courts on a plan to expand the Dispute Resolution Officer program to Kitchener and Welland. These officers are senior family lawyers appointed by the Superior Court of Justice who work with families and guardians to clarify the issues in contention and help them work towards a settlement. They primarily hear first case conferences when a parent or guardian wants to vary an existing order.

Dispute Resolution Officer programs provide litigants in family proceedings an early case evaluation by a neutral third party. They often help to narrow the disputed issues and facilitate full or partial settlement. The program currently operates in nine Superior Court of Justice and Unified Family Court locations in Ontario. Our partner, Oren Weinberg, is a Dispute Resolution Officer in the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto and Newmarket.

Ontario Bar Association Commends Changes and Makes Recommendations

The Ontario Bar Association (OBA), in a submission dated October 13th, commended the Attorney General for recognizing the need for consistency in the legislation. The organization echoed the need for modernization of the language and clarity with respect to the best interests of children. The OBA did suggest two amendments to the Bill, as follows:

  1. Amending the definition of “child” under the Children’s Law Reform Act to be consistent with the Family Law Act and the federal Divorce Act to include not only minor children, but also those who are unable to live independently of their parents care due to illness, disability or another reason.
  2. Broaden the language proposed for s. 47 of the Family Law Act, which permits an application for support to stand over pending a decision with respect to parenting matters. Currently, the Bill suggests replacing “an application for custody” with “an application for a parenting order respecting decision-making ability”. The OBA suggests that this wording is too limiting, as it does not consider an application for parenting time. Instead, the OBA suggests simply, “an application for a parenting order”.

For Assistance with Parenting and Support Disputes, Contact Boulby Weinberg LLP in Toronto

For advice on family law issues including parenting disputes, support awards and litigation, contact the offices of Toronto family law lawyers Boulby Weinberg LLP. Our experienced team focuses exclusively on Ontario family law for clients based locally and internationally. To arrange a consultation, please complete our confidential online questionnaire, which will provide you with valuable preliminary information tailored to your situation. A representative from our firm will contact you within one business day to discuss your matter further and arrange an initial meeting. To contact our firm without completing the questionnaire, please reach out to us online, or call us at 647-494-0113 ext. 102.

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