Separation and Divorce: Duties Under the Divorce Act. In March of 2021, changes to the Federal Divorce Act came into effect. One major change to the Divorce Act puts duties on you, as a party to the separation and/or divorce, to take certain actions. This information sheet has been prepared to help you understand your duties and responsibilities during this difficult time.
Best Interests of the Child. Any person who has parenting time, decision-making responsibility, or contact with a child must ensure all parenting time, major decisions and contact are done in a way that is consistent with the child’s “best interests” (Section 7.1). “Best interests of the child” is a specific set of legal factors found at s. 16 of the Divorce Act; however, the primary consideration should always be the child’s physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being.
Protection of Children from Conflict. You must, to the best of your ability, protect any children from conflict arising from your separation and/or divorce (Section 7.2). You must make every effort to avoid fighting with your spouse, speaking negatively about your spouse, or discussing any issues between yourself and your spouse in front of the children.
Family Dispute Resolution Process. If appropriate, you must try to resolve parenting, support and property issues using a family dispute resolution process such as mediation, collaborative law, parenting coordination, or arbitration (Section 7.3). Lakefield LLP has a number of lawyers certified as Family Mediators, Collaborative Lawyers, or Parenting Coordinators through the Early Family Dispute Resolution Office with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice. We are happy to discuss out-of-court solutions with you.
Complete, Accurate and Up-To-Date Information. You must provide your former partner with complete, accurate and up-to-date information that might be required by the Divorce Act (Section 7.4). This information could include financial records, income tax returns, most recent paystubs, corporate financial statements, childcare provider names and addresses, receipts for children’s activities, information about a child’s health care or schooling. Failure to provide this information can have serious legal consequences. It is best to begin gathering this information now to provide your lawyer.
Duty to Comply with Orders. A person who is subject to an Order made under the Divorce Act must comply with that order until it is no longer in effect. If you have already been through a court process, you must continue to follow the Court Orders regarding parenting, support, or other issues until a new Court Order is issued. For example, if your income changed significantly since the Order was granted, you cannot unilaterally change support amounts you are paying unless the Court Order allows for a change or review. Often, changing Court Orders can be a relatively simple process if both parties agree a change is needed. Your lawyer at Lakefield can assist you with this process.
Other Resources. Separations and divorces are a time of great upheaval and change. There are many things to consider, and this process can be highly emotional. However, there are a number of resources available to you to help you understand this process, and move matters forward.
- Marriage Certificates: An original, certified copy is required to start divorce proceedings.
- Family Law Saskatchewan: Free information and resources on family law in Saskatchewan
- Making Plans: A guide for parents to understand parenting after separation
- Parenting Plan Guide and Template: A guide and template to creating parenting plans by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
- The Federal Child Support Guidelines: 8 step guide to determining child support
- What Happens Next?: A child-friendly guide to understanding family separation
- Parenting after Separation and Divorce Program: This course is required before any applications can be made in Court.
- Maintenance Enforcement Office: Enforcing previous support orders by garnishment.
- Child Support Recalculation Service: Free service to vary eligible child support once per year.
- MyPlan: safety planning tool/phone app to escape family violence
- The Women’s Centre Safety Plan: Guide and resources on safely escaping family violence
- Separation and Divorce: Financial planning, documentation and considerations by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada
This article is of a general nature only. It is based upon laws and policies in effect as of the date noted above, which may change. It is not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. You should consult with your lawyer to confirm the current state of the law and obtain advice specific to your situation.