The Family Law Act, pronounced in March 2013, brought about many important changes to how the courts govern issues regarding children.
The most important change affecting children is pursuant to section 37 of the Family Law Act which states that the only consideration that a Judge is to consider when making an Order regarding parenting time, guardianship, etc… is the “best interests of the child” which includes the following considerations:
(a) the child’s health and emotional well-being;
(b) the child’s views, unless it would be inappropriate to consider them;
(c) the nature and strength of the relationships between the child and significant persons in the child’s life;
(d) the history of the child’s care;
(e) the child’s need for stability, given the child’s age and stage of development;
(f) the ability of each person who is a guardian or seeks guardianship of the child, or who has or seeks parental responsibilities, parenting time or contact with the child, to exercise his or her responsibilities;
(g) the impact of any family violence on the child’s safety, security or well-being, whether the family violence is directed toward the child or another family member;
(h) whether the actions of a person responsible for family violence indicate that the person may be impaired in his or her ability to care for the child and meet the child’s needs;
(i) the appropriateness of an arrangement that would require the child’s guardians to cooperate on issues affecting the child, including whether requiring cooperation would increase any risks to the safety, security or well-being of the child or other family members;
(j) any civil or criminal proceeding relevant to the child’s safety, security or well-being.
Under the old Family Relations Act, the child’s best interests were “paramount” and Judges were to consider the following but could consider any other relevant factors which the Judge deemed important including:
(a) the health and emotional well being of the child including any special needs for care and treatment;
(b) if appropriate, the views of the child;
(c) the love, affection and similar ties that exist between the child and other persons;
(d) education and training for the child;
(e) the capacity of each person to whom guardianship, custody or access rights and duties may be granted to exercise those rights and duties adequately.