Divorce in Canada

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How to Get a Divorce in Canada

In Canada, the Federal Government has jurisdiction over marriage and divorce and so the Federal Divorce Act governs how couples may get a divorce in Canada. The specific procedures used in each province, and the property rights held by common law couples, are governed by provincial legislation that is different in each province. Contact a divorce lawyer or legal aid office in your province to answer specific questions for your region.

Divorce Step-by-Step in Canada

What follows is an introductory, step-by-step guide to getting a divorce in Canada. Follow the links under each step below to learn more.

1: Make the decision to divorce, and formally separate from your spouse. This may or may not involve moving out of the matrimonial home. It is possible to separate from your spouse while still living in the same home. For example, you may move into a separate bedroom, and write a letter to your spouse telling them that you have decided to separate and seek a divorce. Consult a lawyer for more information on how to legally separate from your spouse.

2: Get the forms for a divorce application from your local courthouse or legal information centre.

3: Complete your application for divorce by specifying your grounds for divorce. The vast majority of divorces proceed on a no-fault basis. It may be possible to obtain a divorce faster if you specify grounds such as adultery or cruelty, but you will ordinarily need to appear before a judge and will very likely need a lawyer in order to succeed in obtaining an expedited divorce on an at-fault basis.

4: Determine whether you have a contested or an uncontested divorce, and seek appropriate legal assistance.

  • An uncontested divorce is where both spouses consent to the reasons for the divorce, the division of property, and the payment of spousal support.
  • A contested divorce means one or more of these issues is disputed, in which case both parties must apply for divorce and a trial may be necessary to resolve the dispute.

5: If you have children of the marriage (i.e. you and the spouse you are separating from have had children together) then your divorce application will need to set out your custody and parenting arrangement, and provide for the payment of child support. Note that if this is a disputed issue, you may need to appear in court to argue for your position.

6: File for divorce. The filing fee will depend on the jurisdiction you are filing in. You will need to file your application at your local courthouse.

7:  Serve your application for divorce on your spouse. They will then have 30 days to respond to your application and dispute any of the issues addressed in your application

8: If your application is uncontested, you can now simply wait for the Ottawa Divorce Registry to process your application. Once approved, you will receive a Clerk’s Certificate confirming that your Divorce has been granted.

9: Depending upon the province you live in, you will then need to apply for a divorce to your local Court. You will need to complete an application form supported by an affidavit, Clerk’s Certificate, and serve this material on your spouse in accordance with the Rules of Court applicable to your jurisdiction.

10: After the Court grants your application, you must wait 30 days in order to obtain your Certificate of Divorce. Once you have such a certificate, you are no longer legally married. At this point, you can seek to marry again, if you so desire.

Along the way many issues can arise including in relation to child support, spousal support, the division of any matrimonial property, or the parenting of any children of the marriage. You may also need to address issues relating to the reorganization of a family business or practical matters such as moving to a new home or relocating. Many organizations exist that are capable of helping you understand your rights in a divorce in Canada. If you need help (and you likely will), please be sure to seek it out.

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