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The New Divorce Act: the Changes Are Coming…Eventually

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Recently, we’ve been getting a lot of questions concerning what has been colloquially referred to as the “New Divorce Act”. This act, which is officially known as An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act (S.O. 2019, C. 16, (Bill C-78))—you can see the need for a shortened title—received royal assent on June 21st of this year and will make many changes to the Divorce Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. 3 (2nd Supp.)).

This omnibus statute has stirred plenty of conversation not only because of its contents, but also because of its somewhat complicated coming into force provisions. While the New Divorce Act has yet to be published on the Justice Laws website, the assented to version of Bill C-78 can be found on the LEGISinfo website. The coming into force section of the new act is reproduced below:

Coming into Force

Order in council

126 (1) Subsections 1(1) to (4), (6) and (7), sections 2 to 6, 8 to 15, subsection 16(2), sections 17 to 19, 21, 22 and 23 to 25, subsection 28(3) and sections 32 to 35 come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

Order in council

(2) Subsections 16(1) and (3) and 28(4) and sections 30 and 36 come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council, but that day must not be before the day fixed in accordance with subsection (1).

Order in council

(3) Subsection 1(5) and sections 7, 20, 31 and 37 to 41 come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council, but that day must not be before the day fixed in accordance with subsection (1).

Order in council

(3.‍1) Section 22.‍1 comes into force in one or more provinces on a day or days to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

Order in council

(4) Sections 43, 45, 46 and 48 and subsections 49(1), (3) and (5) to (7) come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

Order in council

(5) Subsections 51(1) and (4), sections 52, 54 and 66 and subsections 69(2) and (6) come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

Order in council

(6) Subsections 73(2) to (6), section 74 and subsection 76(3) come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

Order in council

(7) Subsections 105(1), 106(2), 111(2) to (4) and 115(3) and (5) come into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.

As we can see, the act does not have one coming into force date, but several. It is also important to remember that those provisions which are silent came into force on the date of royal assent (June 21, 2019).

Thankfully, The Lawyer’s Daily’s Cristin Schmitz has published the helpful article “Major Divorce, Criminal Law Reforms have Staggered Implementations Dates up to Two Years” which concerns the major provisions of the new act and when they are expected to be proclaimed into force.

Cristin Schmitz, “Major Divorce, Criminal Law Reforms have Staggered Implementation Dates up to Two Years” (2019), online: The Lawyer’s Daily < https://www.thelawyersdaily.ca/articles/13282&gt;. Article available to LSO licensees from the Great Library upon request.

The article notes that:

  • According to the government, most of the provisions of S.O. 2019, C. 16 will not come into force for another year, and will do so by order-in-council
  • Some noteworthy provisions which were silent and so came into force upon royal assent include the provisions involving an updated regulation-making authority and authority for the Minister of Justice to undertake research and other activities

When they are published, the orders-in-council responsible for proclaiming sections of the New Divorce Act in force can be found in Part II of the Canada Gazette. Alternatively, keep an eye on the Table of Public Statutes on Justice Laws, which will advertise the coming into force dates for the new act as they are published.

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