Tuesday July 16, 2019

Canada’s International Family Law Commitments

Authored by: Terrance G. Sheppard Posted in: Family Law

The federal government’s recent amendments to the Divorce Act, under Bill C-78, bring Canada one step closer to meeting its international commitments on family law.1

Progress on International Commitments

Canada has agreed to the 2007 Convention regarding international enforcement of child support orders2 and the 1996 Convention regarding international cooperation on parenting orders.3 However, Canadian law is not yet aligned with obligations under those conventions.

To become a party to the Conventions, laws under federal jurisdiction and laws of at least one province must align with the international standards. Bill C-78 has made the necessary changes to Canada’s federal laws, in part by creating a Central Authority to supervise international enforcement of support orders.4 Changes to provincial laws are the responsibility of the individual provincial legislatures.

Enforcement of Support Orders

The 2007 Convention creates a legal regime for enforcing child support orders between countries, where one parent makes an international move following separation. Currently, enforcement is possible in some countries, including the United States. In other cases, however, parents in Canada must resort to hiring lawyers in foreign countries to fight for their support payments.

After becoming a party to the Convention, Canada will be able to ensure support orders are enforced in each of the 41 countries that will be parties to the international agreement.5 The Convention facilitates enforcement of orders for child support, but includes spousal support where it is associated with child support obligations.6

Parenting Orders and Decisions

The 1996 Convention allows for cooperation on parenting issues between countries. First, it facilitates enforcement of access orders where one parent moves their child to a new country. Currently, many countries will not enforce parenting orders made by Canadian courts.

Second, it sets out which country has jurisdiction over parenting decisions, where the parties live in different countries. This allows for greater certainty in decisions and prevents re-litigation of issues.

The 1996 Convention also makes it easier to return a child to Canada in cases of abduction, by facilitating stronger communication between authorities.7

If you are seeking legal advice on a parenting or support-related issue, please call 902-469-9500 to schedule your free 30-minute consultation with a member of our Family Law team. For more information on the Divorce Act amendments, keep up to date with our blog.


1 Bill C-78, An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, 1st Sess, 42nd Parl, 2019 (assented to 21 June 2019) [Bill C-78]; Divorce Act, RSC 1985, c 3, (2nd Supp).

2 Convention on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance, 23 November 2007, 2955 UNTS (entered into force 1 January 2012) [2007 Convention].

3 Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children, 19 October 1996, 2204 UNTS 503 (entered into force 1 January 2002) [1996 Convention].

4 Canada, Department of Justice, “Legislative Background: An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act (Bill C-78)”, (Ottawa: DOJ, January 2019) [Legislative Background]; Bill C-78 supra note 1, cl 30.

5 For information about the 2007 Convention and its parties, see the United Nations Treaty Series, online: https://treaties.un.org/Pages/showDetails.aspx?objid=08000002803afa24&clang=_en.

6 Legislative Background supra note 4.

7 Ibid; Note that Canada is also a party to the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, 25 October 1980, 1343 UNTS 89 (entered into force 1 December 1983).

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