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Coronavirus: Divorce Act reforms delayed to March 2021

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 25, 2020.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Highly anticipated reforms to Canadian divorce law have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reforms were to have gone into effect on July 1 but Justice Minister David Lametti says that has been pushed back to March 1, 2021.

READ MORE: Changes proposed to the Divorce Act for less conflict, more ‘clarity’

He says courts across the country are currently hearing only urgent family law matters during the pandemic as they attempt to abide by restrictions to stem the spread of the virus.

Lametti says that, combined with how much governments are focused on the health crisis, has made it impossible to take the steps needed to implement the reforms.

Postponing the changes was decided in consultation with provincial and territorial governments, who Lametti says need time to adjust their own laws and regulations to be compatible with the federal reforms.

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Making Divorce Act less contentious
Making Divorce Act less contentious

The reforms, which will apply only to legally married couples, are aimed at putting more emphasis on the interests of the child in custody decisions and would for the first time require the courts to take into account any instances of family violence.

“We understand how important the changes to the Divorce Act are to Canadians affected by separation and divorce, especially to vulnerable family members,” Lametti said in a statement Friday.

“We are working hard with our partners to implement these changes.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an increase in domestic abuse as schools and workplaces shut down and Canadians isolated themselves at home.