Canada Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada's Divorce Act

12:05  07 march  2021
12:05  07 march  2021 Source:   msn.com

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The mother of two girls who were murdered by their father on Christmas Day in 2017 in Oak Bay, B.C., says she is relieved to hear about new changes to Canada ' s Divorce Act recognizing the impact of family violence. "It was a huge relief for me," Sarah Cotton-Elliott said to CBC's Gregor Craigie during one of her first interviews since her daughters ' deaths. than in the autumn.”The backdrop to the gathering is a slew of indicators that energy consumption is on the mend in key economies, alongside pockets of lockdown-related weakness.

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VICTORIA — Legal experts and a mother whose ex-partner was convicted of murdering their two daughters hope changes to Canada's Divorce Act will better protect children.

  Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada's Divorce Act © Provided by The Canadian Press

Changes to the law took effect at the beginning of March. They place more emphasis on the needs of children during divorce and, as a result, aim to minimize legal battles between parents over custody orders, said Prof. Sara Ramshaw, a family law expert at the University of Victoria.

She said the Christmas day, 2017 deaths of six-year-old Chloe and her four-year-old sister Aubrey were part of a recent discussion about the Divorce Act with her family law students.

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The Divorce Act (French: Loi sur le divorce ) is the federal Act that governs divorce in Canada . The Constitution of Canada gives the federal Parliament exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the law of marriage and divorce . There was no uniform federal divorce law in Canada until 1968.

In Canada , the only legal reason you need to be granted a Divorce is that your marriage has broken down. The law accepts that there has been a breakdown of your marriage if you can prove that you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least one year. When dealing with Child Custody in Canada our courts focus on one thing: The best interest of the children. Many people falsely believe that when a couple Divorces the children will automatically be placed with the mother . This is not true.

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge sentenced Andrew Berry to life in prison without chance of parole for 22 years in December 2019 after a jury convicted him of second-degree murder in the deaths of his two daughters. Berry is appealing his conviction and sentence.

Berry was estranged from his partner, Sarah Cotton-Elliott, at the time he killed the girls.

Ramshaw said the amendments to the Divorce Act change the way the presence and prospect of violence, including a child's direct or indirect exposure to family violence, is considered.

"It signals to parents that it's not about them," Ramshaw said in an interview. "It's not about winning and losing. It's about children and who the children should be spending time with.

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That is why the Government of Canada took action by changing Canada ’ s federal family laws to promote the best interests of the child, address family violence, help reduce child poverty, and make the family justice system more accessible and efficient. The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges on many fronts for Canadians , as well as for the operations of governments, courts and the family justice system. We understand the changes to the Divorce Act are highly anticipated by family law professionals, provincial and territorial partners and Canadians affected by separation and divorce .

7 The jurisdiction conferred on a court by this Act to grant a divorce shall be exercised only by a judge of the court without a jury. (2) It is the duty of every barrister, solicitor, lawyer or advocate who undertakes to act on behalf of a spouse in a divorce proceeding to discuss with the spouse the advisability of negotiating the matters that may be the subject of a support order or a custody order and to inform the spouse of the mediation facilities known to him or her.

"I'm really hoping that nothing like Cotton and Berry happens again."

She said she will be watching future family court decisions to monitor where the issue of family violence factors in court parenting rulings.

Cotton-Elliott supports the changes to the law. When she was in family court, she said she believed her children's safety and well-being took a back seat to arranging equal parenting for herself and Berry.

"There's now a definition of all types of family violence written into national legislation, which has never been included before," she said in an interview. "I think the judges will be paying closer attention to these kinds of things when looking at making decisions."

Cotton-Elliott said she believes the amended Divorce Act has the potential to protect more children from family violence.

"I think for judges to make an informed decision in these family law cases they need a thorough understanding of family violence and the issues at play," she said. "The awareness is key. I really hope that these judges will take into account and recognize all signs of abuse."

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Recent studies have shown that millenials are choosing to wait longer to get married and staying married longer and are the main driver in the decline of both the marriage and divorce rate in the US. 2. The marriage rate in the United States is currently 6.8 per 1,000 total population. 102. These same studies also found that people with divorced sisters or brothers are 22% more likely to get divorced than if siblings are not divorced . 103. In a large-scale Canadian survey, 19 percent of men reported a significant drop in social support post- divorce .

(6) A divorce in respect of which an appeal has been taken to the Supreme Court of Canada , unless voided on the appeal, takes effect on the day on which the judgment on the appeal is rendered. (7) Notwithstanding subsection (3), a court may award an amount that is different from the amount that would be determined in accordance with the applicable guidelines on the consent of both spouses if it is satisfied that reasonable arrangements have been made for the support of the child to whom the order relates.

Berry was living in an apartment in the suburban Victoria community of Oak Bay where he was behind on his rent and the power had been cut off, his trial heard. He had quit his job and spent his savings to support a gambling habit.

In sentencing Berry, Justice Miriam Gropper said he knew he was close to losing access to his children, prompting him to write a suicide note blaming Cotton-Elliott and his parents for his death. Instead, Berry killed his daughters and stabbed himself in a failed attempt to take his own life, Gropper said.

In Canada, family law is a shared jurisdiction between the federal and provincial and territorial governments. The Divorce Act applies to married couples who are divorcing, while provincial or territorial legislation applies to unmarried or common-law couples, as well as married couples who are separated but not divorcing

The federal government says the changes to the Divorce Act are the first substantive amendments in 20 years.

In an online explanation of the changes, the federal government says the act did not previously include measures for dealing with family violence, but now the law defines it.

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The definition includes any conduct that is violent, threatening, shows a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour, causes a family member to fear for their safety directly or indirectly, and exposes a child to such conduct.

"Courts will have to take family violence into account," the department said. "A list of factors have been added to the Divorce Act to help courts assess the seriousness of the violence and how it could affect future parenting when deciding what arrangements would be in the child’s best interests."

Lawyer Shelley Hounsell-Gray, the Canadian Bar Association's family law secretary, said the Divorce Act changes will hopefully bring more peace to families, including children and their parents.

"It's not about punishment," she said in an interview from Bedford, N.S. "It's about working collaboratively and more holistically with families so that children and their parents will end up with better parenting plans."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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