Canada: The interests of children in the Divorce Act

by | Jun 28, 2022

The federal Divorce Act is relevant for legal proceedings about relocation of children. It tells us what the court needs to consider and it tells us how to correctly notify the other parent about the planned relocation.

In section 16 of the Federal Divorce Act it is listed in detail what the court must consider when determining what is in the best interests of the children.

Primary consideration

(2) When considering the factors referred to in subsection (3), the court shall give primary consideration to the child’s physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being.

Factors to be considered

(3)  In determining the best interests of the child, the court shall consider all factors related to the circumstances of the child, including:

(a) the child’s needs, given the child’s age and stage of development, such as the child’s need for stability;

(b) the nature and strength of the child’s relationship with each spouse, each of the child’s siblings and grandparents and any other person who plays an important role in the child’s life;

(c) each spouse’s willingness to support the development and maintenance of the child’s relationship with the other spouse;

(d) the history of care of the child;

(e) the child’s views and preferences, giving due weight to the child’s age and maturity, unless they cannot be ascertained;

(f) the child’s cultural, linguistic, religious and spiritual upbringing and heritage, including Indigenous upbringing and heritage;

(g) any plans for the child’s care;

(h) the ability and willingness of each person in respect of whom the order would apply to care for and meet the needs of the child;

(i) the ability and willingness of each person in respect of whom the order would apply to communicate and cooperate, in particular with one another, on atters affecting the child;

(j) any family violence and its impact on, among other things,

(i) the ability and willingness of any person who engaged in the family violence to care for and meet the needs of the child, and

(ii) the appropriateness of making an order that would require persons in respect of whom the order would apply to cooperate on issues affecting the child; and

(k) any civil or criminal proceeding, order, condition, or measure that is relevant to the safety, security and well-being of the child.

Factors relating to family violence

(4) In considering the impact of any family violence under paragraph (3)(j), the court shall take the following into account:

(a) the nature, seriousness and frequency of the family violence and when it occurred;

(b) whether there is a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour in relation to a family member;

(c) whether the family violence is directed toward the child or whether the child is directly or indirectly exposed to the family violence;

(d) the physical, emotional and psychological harm or risk of harm to the child;

(e) any compromise to the safety of the child or other family member;

(f) whether the family violence causes the child or other family member to fear for their own safety or for that of another person;

(g) any steps taken by the person engaging in the family violence to prevent further family violence from occurring and improve their ability to care for and meet the needs of the child; and

(h) any other relevant factor.

Past conduct

(5) In determining what is in the best interests of the child, the court shall not take into consideration the past conduct of any person unless the conduct is relevant to the exercise of their parenting time, decision-making responsibility or contact with the child under a contact order.

When the court must decide about the relocation of a child, the factors or section 16.92(1) and the factors of 16(3-5) are relevant. Section 16.92 (1) is specificallly about relocation. When a parent wants to relocate, he or she must notify the other parent.

Notification

Section 16.9(1) explains how and when to inform the other parent.

16.9 (1) A person who has parenting time or decision-making responsibility in respect of a child of the marriage and who intends to undertake a relocation shall notify, at least 60 days before the expected date of the proposed relocation and in the form prescribed by the regulations, any other person who has parenting time, decision-making responsibility or contact under a contact order in respect of that child of their intention.