Government of Canada announces new measures to strengthen and modernize family justice

News release

Putting children’s best interests first: Creating a more efficient and effective family justice system 

May 22, 2018 – Ottawa, Ontario – Department of Justice Canada  

Protecting families, particularly children, from the negative outcomes often related to separation and divorce is a priority for the Government of Canada.  Canada’s family justice system must work for families and be both accessible and efficient.

Today, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced legislation that would help achieve these objectives by amending three federal family laws: the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act (FOAEAA) and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act (GAPDA). This is the first substantial update of Canada’s federal family laws in 20 years.

The bill’s four key objectives are to promote the best interests of the child, address family violence, help reduce child poverty, and make Canada’s family justice system more accessible and efficient. 

Other proposed amendments would streamline certain family justice processes, encourage people to resolve divorce-related disputes out of court, and create new rules for parents who wish to relocate a child after a divorce. Proposed amendments to FOAEAA and GAPDA would provide additional tools for enforcing family support obligations.

As announced in Budget 2018, the Government also proposes to improve access to the family justice system by expanding unified family courts in Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Unified family courts also provide services in all areas of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. Unified family courts simplify procedures by allowing federal and provincial family law issues to be addressed by a single court. 


“Separation and divorce impact the lives of millions of Canadians and can be challenging for families, especially for children. That is why this bill focuses on putting the best interests of the child first, reducing conflict, addressing family violence, and encouraging parents and former spouses to meet their family support obligations. Together, this bill and our proposal to expand unified family courts announced in Budget 2018 demonstrate our commitment to strengthening the family justice system and making it more accessible and efficient for families in Canada.”

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C. Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada 

Quick facts

  • Divorce and separation affect Canadians from all walks of life. According to the Census, in 2016 over 2 million children were living in separated or divorced families. Five million Canadians separated or divorced between 1991 and 2011. Of those, about 38% had a child together at the time of their separation or divorce.

  • In terms of children, according to the Census, in 2016, 1.16 million children of separated or divorced parents were living in a lone-parent family. Another 1.02 million children were living in step families. 

  • Lone-parent families, particularly those led by women, are more likely to live in poverty compared to two-parent families. Studies have identified child support as a key factor in lifting families out of poverty following a separation or divorce. 

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For more information, media may contact:

David Taylor
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of Justice

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada

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