Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bill 133: Ontario's Family Statute Law Amendment Act

Sweeping change will come to Ontario family law as a result of Attorney General Chris Bentley's introduction of Bill 133 yesterday in the provincial legislature.

The legislation includes major change to the calculation and distribution of employment pension plan entitlements between separating spouses. It also introduces new procedures for changing a child's surname, enhances availability and enforcement of restraining orders, and simplifies procedures for annual recalculation of child support obligations.

Under the Bill, the valuation, or "net family law value," of a pension plan member's entitlements will be provided to spouses directly by pension plan administrators on the request of either spouse. Additionally, up to 50% of a spouse's pension entitlement attributable to the period of a marriage may be paid out to his or her spouse from the pension plan itself, if the transfer is provided for by a Court Order, a family arbitration award or Separation Agreement.

This brings significant modification to the calculation of equalization entitlements under the Family Law Act and in most cases, will streamline the determination of spouses' net family property in family law negotiations and proceedings.

The Bill will also significantly reduce the expense of divorce proceedings, by apparently eliminating the current need for costly, actuarial valuations of each spouses' employment pension entitlements in most cases.

Other highlights of the Bill include:

  • Provision for annual financial disclosure by child support payors and automatic recalculation by the Family Responsibility Office of the quantum of child support then payable for the subsequent year;

  • Strengthened provision for restraining orders in short-term cohabitations;

  • Amendments to provincial Change of Name legislation to permit a parent to apply to a Court to have his or her surname added to a child's name, if consent is refused by the other parent;

  • Police checks, criminal record searches, current prosecution searches, and Children's Aid Society record searches will be mandatory for any non-parent who makes an Application for the custody of a child. These records will be admissible in evidence in custody Applications.

  • The Bill enhances confidentiality of court records in custody and access applications under the Children's Law Reform Act by requiring courts to consider whether to make an order limiting access to the court file, or to prohibit the publication or the making public of information that identifies anyone referenced in the court file.

  • The Bill excludes from the calculation of the value of property owned by a spouse on the date of marriage any debts directly related to the acquisition or significant improvement of a matrimonial home.

The full text of Bill 133 is online. See: Ontario's Family Statute Law Amendment Act, 2008

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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