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New divorce law expected to focus on custody

CTV News Staff

Justice Minister Martin Cauchon is set to table changes to Canada's Divorce Act in the House of Commons. Reports suggest the Family Law Reform Act announced Tuesday will attempt to make the divorce process less confrontational.

"Custody...and the notion of custody and access, people are asking the government to move with something else, with a new philosophy, new dynamic," Cauchon said Monday.

It's expected the legislation will do away with the terms "access" and "custody" and replace them with "parenting orders." The changes to the wording are intended to remove the idea that one parent wins custody while another loses.

The Ottawa Citizen reported recently that the legislation will also give judges criteria to follow when settling custody disputes, including whether a parent has ever been violent.

Currently, the Divorce Act only mandates a judge to consider the best interests of a child when ruling on custody.

The proposed changes could make it difficult for a parent who has a history of violence to have access to a child.

CTV's Mike Duffy says fathers' advocacy groups will be reading the legislation carefully. They have long lobbied Ottawa to enshrine the idea of shared parenting into law, saying that judges award custody to mothers in the majority of disputes.

The Citizen said the justice department's changes to the Divorce Act have been approved by cabinet.