The Divorce Act Changes Explained

Best interests of the child

Nature, seriousness and frequency
(Section 16(4)(a), Divorce Act)

New section

(a) the nature, seriousness and frequency of the family violence and when it occurred;

Old section


What is the change

The court must consider the type and severity of the family violence, as well as when and how frequently it occurred.

Reason for the change

The type, severity and frequency of family violence are all important in assessing whether family violence and harm to family members will continue. Physical violence accompanied by psychological violence, for example, tends to indicate a pattern of control, while acts of sexual violence are associated with a higher risk of death. Frequent or severe family violence in the past increases the risk of future family violence. Research indicates that the risk of harm to children from exposure to spousal violence increases with the duration and frequency of the violence.

The court must also consider when the family violence occurred, along with other circumstances. For example, a serious incident of family violence that occurred in the distant past, but which is part of an overall pattern of coercion and control, may be of greater concern than a single less serious incident of family violence that occurred around the time of separation.


March 1, 2021.

Date modified: