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Family Law Update: Queen's Park Tries To Toughen Things Up

In response to public outrage about a few unusual incidents related to cases before the Family Courts, the Ontario Government has passed the Family Statute Amendment Act. It came into force on March 1, 2010 and it makes three changes to Ontario Family Law. First, it changes "restraining/non-harassment orders" made in Family Court. Second, it requires people seeking custody or access to file new court documents requiring extensive information with the court. Third, it makes specific provision for courts to make orders controlling how people parent children in their care.

The changes to "restraining orders" are designed to "toughen up" the orders and extend more protection to more people. These provisions are already in force. Under the new Act, you can get a restraining order against a person you lived with for any period of time (maybe even only a day) or with whom you have a child. The changes have also created standard restraining orders. They will set out exactly who is not allowed to communicate with whom, where a person is not allowed to go and if there will be any exceptions.

Public outrage over the death of a child placed in the custody of a parent's friend resulted in significant new requirements for documents to be filed with the court. The changes require all the parties to file a parenting affidavit that includes a lot of detail about the children and a detailed parenting plan. If a party is not a parent, he or she will also have to file a criminal record check, provide every address where he or she has lived since birth, and provide authorization for every children's aid society in every jurisdiction where that person has ever lived to search their records and provide information to the court.

The last change is not really much of a change at all.

Section 28 (1) of the Children's Law Reform Act has been amended to allow orders prohibiting:

a- speaking disparagingly about the other parent in front of the child,
b- changing a child's residence, school or daycare with the other parent's consent or a court order,
c- the removal of a child from Ontario;
d- one parent from withholding a child's passport or health card,
e- withholding consent documents to allow the parent to get information about a child; and
f- a parent from blocking contact between a child and another person. The courts have made these orders as part of custody orders for a long time. This change may simply be designed to assist parents in understanding that a judge can make these types of orders.

The changes outlined above respond to public concern about safety and security, codifying some measures and introducing new ones.

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