Last year there were a few interesting developments in the area of family law. However, many of them took place late in 2012 and were never concluded. Here is a list of items to watch in family law in 2013:
- Provisions for non-residents involving same-sex divorce: Many non-resident same-sex couples have come to Canada to get married since same-sex marriage was legalized a decade ago. However, when the marriage hasn’t worked out, they’ve quickly realized that they are not eligible for a divorce in Canada because they don’t meet the 1-year residency requirement. In response to criticisms that some same-sex couples are stuck in their rotten marriages, unable to get a divorce, the federal government introduced Bill C-32 in February to allow dissolution of marriage for non-resident spouses. As of today, it has completed the first reading.
- Sperm-donor offspring’s right to know biological father: In December, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that there is no constitutional right to know the identity of one’s father. The applicant vowed to take the matter to the Supreme Court. To date no leave to appeal has been filed. However, that doesn’t prevent another applicant from litigating in another province, under another approach.
- Civility in family law: In 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed that while lawyers have a duty to advance their clients’ interests relentlessly, they also have a duty to act courteously towards the administrators of justice. Coincidentally, the Discipline Panel of the Law Society of Upper Canada is currently considering sanctions against a lawyer for incivility. What penalty the lawyer might face remains to be seen.
- U.K. set to legalize same-sex marriage: The British government has announced its intention to legalize same-sex marriage in 2013. At the moment, same-sex couples there are entitled to register for civil partnership but not marriage. Although British same-sex couples enjoy essentially the same rights and obligations to their opposite-sex counterparts, the distinction in terminology has created some uncertainty. The legalization of same-sex marriage will eliminate the legal confusion in Canada about whether a British civil partnership is or is not a marriage here.
- Modernization of court filing systems: In 2012, the B.C. government introduced electronic filing (e-filing) for all levels of the court system. In many other jurisdictions, e-filing has been the norm for many years. For example, Singapore has had e-filing since 2005, while Ontario’s neighbour, New York State, implemented state-wide e-filing in 2009. Will Ontario take a step towards e-filing in 2013?
- ADR gaining visibility in family law: The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General introduced a new program encouraging litigants to mediate in family law matters in Toronto. Free mediation services are available in Toronto family court houses for individuals with matters on the docket, while a subsidy is provided for off-site family law mediation services. The government will pay a subsidy on a sliding scale, depending on the users’ income level. Hopefully the program will prove successful and become available province-wide.
This blog is provided for educational purposes and for your reference. It is not intended as legal advice and should not be regarded as such. The law may have changed since the publication of this article.