Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, “Family Law” is really a catch-all, umbrella term covering a broad range of legal topics that stem from family relationships – including spousal (i.e. marital and common-law) relationships, parent-child relationships, and even dependents (which can include extended family members).
Collectively, Family Law refers to the field of law covering many aspects of these family-related connections, including:
- division of family property upon separation and divorce
- spousal and child support
- child custody and access
- adoption and parentage
- child protection
- dependents’ relief applications
In Ontario, Family Law issues are covered mainly by provincial legislation.
“Divorce Law,” in contrast, is technically governed by federal legislation in the form of the Divorce Act, which applies equally across Canada.
However, the term has grown to mean more than simply the administrative dissolution of a marriage; this is because divorce-related steps are really intertwined with some of the Family Law issues listed above, especially family property, child support and custody. In short, “Divorce Law” can be viewed as a sub-set of the broader topic of Family Law.