Oh, Canada! Family Court leaders in the Great White North

As we celebrate our great country with a long weekend, time with friends, and perhaps a Moosehead or two, it is worth acknowledging how we represent on the world stage. We are leaders and advocates for progressive change in so many different arenas!

Our courts, as it turns out, are no exception.


Recent Advances in Canadian Family Courts

Canadian family courts have been adapting to the changing social and legal landscape. The Ministry of the Attorney General plays a crucial role in managing family court records and providing resources such as guides and tools for persons appearing in family court. These courts that deal with divorce, child custody and domestic violence cases have brought in several progressive changes to ensure fairness, protect vulnerable parties and reflect current societal values. Here are 5 recent advances in Canadian family courts.

1. Recognition of Same Sex Partnerships and Parenting Rights

One of the biggest advances in Canadian family law has been the recognition of same sex partnerships and parenting rights. In 2005 Canada became the 4th country in the world to legalize same sex marriage with the passing of the Civil Marriage Act. This law gave same sex couples the same legal rights and obligations as opposite sex couples including marriage, divorce and child custody. The recognition of same-sex partnerships and parenting rights addresses significant family law issues.

Since then Canadian family courts have been leading the way in protecting 2SLGBTQ+ parents. They have consistently ruled that both partners in a same sex couple are legal parents regardless of biological connection. This progressive approach means children in same sex families have the same legal protections and recognition as children in opposite sex families, equality and inclusion.

2. The Best Interests of the Child

Canadian family courts put the best interests of the child first in all custody and access decisions within any family law case. This principle is contained in the Divorce Act which was amended in 2021 to further emphasize a child centric approach. The amendments added a comprehensive list of factors the court must consider when determining what is in the best interests of the child. These include the child’s physical, emotional and psychological needs, their relationship with each parent and their views and preferences.

And the amendments discourage the use of legal terms like “custody” and “access” and instead use more child focused language like “parenting time” and “decision making responsibility”. This encourages parents to focus on the well being of their children rather than winning or losing a custody battle.

3. More Protection from Family Violence

Family violence is an issue that family courts must handle with sensitivity and effectiveness, especially in family cases. Recent amendments to the Divorce Act have increased protection from family violence, a more progressive approach to protecting vulnerable parties. The Act now includes a broad definition of family violence that includes physical, emotional, psychological and financial abuse.

Canadian family courts must consider the impact of family violence on the victim and any children involved when making parenting arrangements. This means the safety and well being of all family members are prioritized. Courts can also issue emergency protection orders and other legal remedies to provide immediate relief and protection to victims of family violence.

4. Support for Alternative Dispute Resolution

Recognizing that traditional adversarial court proceedings can be stressful and expensive, Canadian family courts have been promoting alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods. Court forms for ADR processes are readily available and can be obtained from Family Law Information Centres, which also provide assistance in completing and understanding these forms. ADR includes mediation, arbitration and collaborative law which allows parties to resolve their disputes outside of the courtroom in a more peaceful and cooperative way.

The family law system provides resources and services to support ADR. This approach reduces the emotional and financial burden on families and leads to more sustainable and mutually beneficial outcomes. By supporting ADR Canadian family courts want to create a more human and efficient justice system.

5. Technology and Accessibility

In recent years Canadian family courts have been embracing technology to improve accessibility and efficiency. The COVID 19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital tools and there have been many innovations in how family law cases are being handled. Virtual court hearings, electronic filing of documents and online dispute resolution platforms are now the norm. These advancements have made it easier to access court locations remotely, regardless of where the legal proceedings are conducted.

These technological advancements have made the family justice system more accessible to those who may face barriers such as geographical distance, physical disability or limited financial resources. By using technology Canadian family courts ensure justice is more available to all Canadians no matter their circumstances.


The reforms in Canadian family courts show a commitment to fairness, equality and protection of vulnerable parties. By recognizing same sex partnerships, best interests of the child, more protection from family violence, support for ADR and technology Canadian family courts have shown they are willing to evolve with the times and improve the family justice system. The attorney general's office has played a crucial role in implementing these family court reforms. These changes lead to a more just and inclusive society where all families get the support and protection they deserve.

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