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family lawyer explaining changes to Divorce Act in Canada

The divorce rate in Canada is going down, falling to six divorces for every 1,000 married persons in 2016.

Yet it remains one of the most emotionally draining experiences a person can go through. Antiquated and confusing laws made the process worse.

Over the last few years, lawmakers have changed terms and added new conditions, to make divorce fairer. Many of these new conditions came into effect on March 1, 2021.

Get the facts you need, and you can start your divorce process today. Here is a quick guide to understanding the recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act.


Acting in the best interests of the child has been the common law and unofficial operating rule for divorce courts for many years. Every decision must promote the child's welfare in a substantial manner.

New amendments that came into effect on March 1 make the best interests of the child an official rule. The law requires all individuals who have parenting time and contact with a child to act in their best interests.

A child's interests include their cultural and religious upbringing. The divorce court must allow the child to remain in their native culture.

The court must shield the child during the divorce process. When possible, the parties in the divorce process should submit to a family dispute resolution process.

The court will try to keep the family together unless circumstances are irreparable.


Under previous laws, a co-parent could move whenever they wanted to. This led to disruptions in their child's life. Many children felt like their parents were abandoning them.

As of March 1, the law requires that a co-parent notify everyone else who has parenting time or contact with their child that they are moving. They must send a notice at least 60 days before they move. This includes the child.

If the child is moving, the relocation must benefit them in some way. They can find a better place to go to school or a safer housing environment. The child must be able to maintain contact with their co-parents.


A common question that many people have is "Can I get divorced in a different province?" The reforms to the Divorce Act clarify this question.

As of March 1, the law gives priority to the application that was filed first. The court in the province where the first application was filed has jurisdiction over the divorce proceedings. The case can only change jurisdiction if the first proceeding is discontinued, and the change occurs immediately.

You may start the divorce process in Alberta, but you can get divorced in another province if your spouse files in a court there before you. Get in contact with a lawyer as soon as you are considering divorce and start your legal process to avoid this.


Divorce law in Canada is stepping into the 21st century. The best interests of the child comes first and foremost. All parties must promote the child's welfare, including the court.

Relocation must benefit the child without disruption. All parties who raise a child must know when someone is moving.

If spouses live in separate provinces, the province that receives the first application has jurisdiction. This means you can get divorced in a different province.

To better understand the laws, turn to an expert for support. First West Law LLP has years of experience in divorce cases. Schedule a consultation with our divorce and family lawyers in Calgary today to review your situation.


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