This is the last in a series of posts covering amendments and updates to the Divorce Act of Canada that come into effect March of 2021.
From time to time, when relationships break down between former spouses, a child’s relationship with their extended family may become strained. A former spouse may no longer be able to willing to facilitate access to extended family members on the other side of the child’s family. This is an undesirable outcome that can be detrimental to children. The upcoming amendments to the Divorce Act address these issues by allowing third parties to pursue a court order to enable them to spend time with a child. Section 16.5 of the Divorce Act allows someone other than a parent/spouse, such as a grandparent, who wants time to visit or communicate with a child to apply for a Contact Order.
Prior to applying for a Contact Order, a non-parent is required to obtain leave of the Court to bring an Application to reduce unnecessary litigation. The court will decide whether to allow the application for a Contact Order to proceed on a case by case basis. Although the terms of a Contact Order may vary from situation to situation, the Order may be subject to the same terms and conditions as Parenting Orders, including the prohibition on removal of the child from the jurisdiction. Contact Orders do not confer any decision making authority regarding the child on the non-parent individual who is exercising contact. In reaching a decision on whether to grant a contact order, the Court will consider the non-exhaustive best interest of the child criteria. The issue of grandparent contact and rights is discussed in greater detail in our article Keeping Contact – Legal Options for Relatives Cut Off from Minor Children. If you are a grandparent or other family member who would like to seek access to a child whose parents have separated and would like to discuss your rights, please contact SVR Family Lawyers.