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Common Questions

How do the changes to the Divorce Act affect me?
Last reviewed March 2021 by the Clicklaw Editors.

Note: Effective March 1, 2021, the Registry staff will only accept the new Supreme Court Family Forms (see the FAQs). 

The federal Divorce Act is the Canadian law on marriage breakdown and divorce. It applies to married couples across Canada, regardless of where they were married. On March 1st, 2021, changes to the Act started to take effect. If you are in the midst of a divorce and need to understand how the changes may affect you, take a look at the resources linked below for more detailed information.

Here are just a few essential points about the changes:

  • Changes in language and terminology to the Act made it more consistent with the BC provincial laws. It is more 'child centred'; for example, rather than "custody and access," we now have "parenting time."  
  • There is a new legal test to figure out what is in "the best interest of the child." 
  • There is a new legal test to help figure out what happens when one parent wants to move away from another parent – with or without the child/children. 
  • There are new duties for people getting divorced, for lawyers, and for the court meant to ensure the best interests of the child are being met and that alternative dispute resolution options outside of court are being explored where possible.  
  • There are considerations and new language around family violence, including new factors to work out the impacts of family violence. 

Several things are not changing: child support, spousal support, and the process for obtaining a divorce.

Good starting points include:

  • JP Boyd on Family Law, from John-Paul Boyd, QC/Courthouse Libraries BC, has a section on The New Divorce Act. It provides an overview of the Act's changes, including parenting after separation, moving away with or without children, and the new obligations of spouses, lawyers, and the court.
  • Dial-A-Law: The Divorce Act is Changing, from People's Law School, provides an overview of the essential changes in bite-sized pieces and several common questions.
  • The Five-Minute Family Law: The New Divorce Act for Everyone (28 minutes video), by John-Paul Boyd, QC, highlights the changes to the Divorce Act.
  • Changes to Family Laws: Information for Families, from the Department of Justice, provides an overview and more details on family violence, moving after separation or divorce, parenting arrangements, a child's views & preferences, family dispute resolution, and duties for parents & others.

The following recorded webinars helped the audience understand the basics:

  • JP Boyd on Upcoming Changes to the Divorce Act, from LawMatters, a Courthouse Libraries BC program, was a webinar for public library staff. John-Paul Boyd, QC, discussed the basic legal principles involved in the topic before taking questions from the viewers.
  • Changes to the Divorce Act, from People's Law School, was a webinar for everyone. John-Paul Boyd, QC, walked participants through the key changes and answered questions about how those changes would affect them. 
For more in-depth coverage, the Department of Justice has Divorce Act Changes Explained. This technical guide details the amendments, provides the change and explains why the change was made.

Legal Aid BC have updated their websites, Family Law in BC and MyLawBC, to reflect changes to the Divorce Act.

Need more help?

  • Family LawLINE, from Legal Aid BC, provides legal advice about family law issues for low-income people. 
  • Family Justice Centres, from the provincial government, operate across BC to provide services to British Columbians going through separation or divorce. 
  • You may want to ask for an advice from a family lawyer. Lawyer Referral Service, from Access Pro Bono, helps you connect with a lawyer for a free initial consultation of up to 30 minutes. 
  • Find more services near you on Clicklaw HelpMap.

See our related common questions:

child's best interests, best interests of the child, family dispute resolution, Divorce Act, getting a divorce, parenting, relocations