After years of waiting, this is the week where it all goes down. This Monday, the new Family Law Act came into effect. As I was re-reading the legislation this weekend, it struck me just how far our attitudes towards children have changed in the last hundred years.
Historically, children have always been the property of the parents, more specifically the father, and most, if not all, of the rights a child had flowed through that relationship. The decisions of the father were paramount, and the concept of the state second-guessing the parent’s decisions, much less stepping in to seize a child due to parental misconduct would have seemed bizarre. As anyone who reads the news can tell you, this hasn’t been the case for a long time.
Over the past 30 years, the role of the child’s rights in the determination of custody and access has gradually increased. Last Friday, when determining questions of custody and guardianship, the children’s best interests were paramount and anything resembling historical “parental rights” bore little to no weight in the decision. As of Monday, with the new Family Law Act, this transition is complete. The best interests of the child are now the only considerations the court can take into account when answering these questions.