As of March 1, 2021, Family Law legislation has made some significant amendments to family law terminology. Historically many Family Law disputes centered around the highly contested issue of which parent would have custody of a child. As of March 1, 2021, Bill 207 has come into force in order to revise and change the language of the Children’s Law Reform Act, among many changes, in order to replace the language of custody and access within Ontario, with a brand new vocabulary and set of terms. Our firm is here to explain exactly how these changes may affect family law litigants and how parents can navigate this new and diverse range of concepts. While this blog entry cannot hope to cover all of the new and exiting changes coming in to place under Bill 207, we will be delving into the major changes to current language, with an emphasis on the progression away from the terms “custody” and “access” of children to the new terminology replacing

Goodbye to the “Custody” and “Access” Terminology!

One of the most important changes to be implemented in terms of amendments to the Children’s Law Reform Act as of March 1, 2021, will be the repealing of sections 18 to 21, which are being substituted with new language and definitions. While these changes cover a wide range of definitions, one of the most important will be the removal of traditional family law language such as “custody” and “access”. Custodial and access language as a whole is being substituted with the more neutral and less conflictive terminology replacing the term “Custody” with  “decision-making responsibility” and “access” to “parenting time”. For the sake of clarity, “decision making responsibility” means “responsibility for making significant decisions about a child’s well being”. This responsibility covers a wide range of decisions, including (1) the health of the child, (2) the education of the child, (3) culture, language, religion and spirituality of a child, and (4) significant extra-curricular activities. Parenting time under the new definition refers to “the time a child spends in the care of a parent of the child, whether or not the child is physically with the parent during that time”.

The overall changes here can be understood to be a shift by the courts in an attempt to reduce conflict between parents in order to facilitate and encourage settlement and collaboration between parties in a way the is specifically child oriented. In particular, by removing the language of “custody”, the courts are changing the family law dialogue from “who shall have custody of a child” to “how can parents make decisions for their children? This important helps to avoid the frequent “win at all costs” mentality that promotes an adversarial mentality between parents, in order to have a more healthy and child focused discussion on how parents can co-parent a child after a relationship has broken down.

At the present time, our firm is working with both existing and potential new clients to ensure that parents are able to understand the rapidly changing terminology of family law so that they are able to better understand their rights in relation to their children under the law in Ontario. Our firm is here to assist you in regards to all of your needs, and can assist you in any negotiations you may need to resolve within your decision making responsibility and parenting time disputes. Please call one of our Family Lawyers in Toronto for a consultation related to your matters.