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May 25, 2018

Changes to the Divorce Act Aim to Strengthen the Canadian Family Justice System

On May 23, 2018, the federal government tabled legislation that would make changes to the Divorce Act to strengthen the Canadian family justice system. Bill C-78 includes (but is not limited to) modernizing language to be less adversarial (e.g. changing “access” to “parenting time”); establishing criteria that help define the “best interests of the child”; encouraging the use of resolution services such as mediation instead of courts; giving courts measures to address family violence; establishing guidelines for when one parent wants to relocate with a child; and making it easier for parents to collect support payments.

Statistics on divorce and families in Canada (most recent data available):

  • In 2017, an estimated 9.0% of Canadians aged 15+ were divorced or separated (not living common-law), nearly double the rate in 1977 (4.5%).1
  • Among the 5 million Canadians separated or divorced between 1991 and 2011, 4 in 10 (38%) had a child together at the time of their separation or divorce.2
  • In 2016, more than 1 million children of separated or divorced parents were living in lone-parent families (most commonly with their mothers), which are more likely to have low income.3
  • In 2011, two-thirds of divorced Canadians said they do not have remarriage intentions (23% said they were uncertain).4
  • In 2010–2011, 8 in 10 active divorce cases (80%) in reporting jurisdictions were uncontested, with the remaining 20% being contested or disputed cases.5, 6

If you would like to book an interview with Vanier Institute CEO Nora Spinks, please contact [email protected].

Learn more about the upcoming changes to the Divorce Act.


Hear Vanier Institute CEO Nora Spinks discuss divorce law changes in Canada:

  • CBC Ontario Morning Interview (May 23, 2018)
  • CFAX 1070 Interview (May 23, 2018)

Published on May 25, 2018



  1.  Statistics Canada, Estimates of Population, by Marital Status or Legal Marital Status, Age and Sex for July 1, Canada, Provinces and Territories (CANSIM Table 051-0042), (page last updated November 7, 2017). Link: http://bit.ly/2lSqvbR.
  2. Government of Canada, Government of Canada Announces New Measures to Strengthen and Modernize Family Justice (news release) (page last updated May 22, 2018). Link: https://bit.ly/2LhOZa5.
  3. Government of Canada, 2018.
  4. Statistics Canada, Distribution of People Who Intend to Marry or Remarry by De Facto Marital Status and Region of Residence, Canada, 2011 (GSS Table 1) (page last updated November 30, 2015). Link: https://bit.ly/16l8BVW
  5. Uncontested divorces are those in which the divorcing couple agrees on all issues (e.g. support and child custody/access arrangements), and as a result are significantly quicker to finalize; the median length of uncontested cases in 2010–2011 was 120 days (3 months), compared with 490 days (16 months) for contested cases.
  6. Mary Bess Kelly, “Divorce Cases in Civil Court, 2010/2011,” Juristat, Statistics Canada catalogue no. 85-002-X (March 2012). Link: http://bit.ly/18tCSOo.