How to File for Divorce in Canada
Divorces are covered by federal law under the Divorce Act; however, the act is governed and ruled provincially (or territorially), with each province requiring their own forms and process. We have provided a step-by-step guide for filing divorce in each province here, please see the map below.
Step by Step Divorce Process Guide in Canada
While each province has their own legal documents and specific procedure, they all follow roughly the same process, which we have outlined below.
Step 1: Determine the type of divorce you are seeking.
First Question: Did a spouse do something wrong to merit the divorce?
At-fault divorces: at-fault refers to people seeking a divorce as a result of adultery and / or abuse or cruelty. In these cases some evidence is required to prove the acquisitions and legal representation should be sought in order to ensure the proper steps are followed. We have a great list of lawyers that can help with this matter.
No-fault divorces: prior to filing for divorce, both parties must agree to separate and must be separated for one year before a divorce can be granted. That being said, once the decision to separate is made, the process to file a divorce can be started, but just can’t be official until after a year. If you’re still in the early stages and looking to separate, we have a great overview on how to separate in Canada here.
Second Question: Will there be disagreements regarding the terms of the divorce?
Contested divorce: a contested divorce is when both parties cannot agree on either the reason for or the terms of the divorce, and therefore must each file a separate application to divorce.
Uncontested divorce: an uncontested divorce is simply when both parties agree on the reasons and terms of the divorce and thus only need to file one application.
Step 2: Obtain provincial / territorial divorce application papers.
Once the type of divorce is understood, the paperwork can start to be filed in the respective province where the divorce is being filed (this does not need to be where you were married – at least one spouse needs to have lived in the province for a year where you are filing).
The correct paperwork and forms can be obtained through a law office and the various provincial offices.
Step 3: Children and custody agreements.
If one or more children are involved, then you must outline what the parenting arrangement will be including custody and support. If terms cannot be agreed upon (such as a contested divorce), then each parent must submit what he or she would prefer. Note that should it come down to a court decision, remember that they will always consider what is in the best interest of the child.
Step 4: Now that all of the paperwork is complete, it’s time to file!
Once all of the forms are filled out for your respective province or territory, then it is time to bring them to the courthouse (your lawyer will handle this step too!). Each region has different fees involved and may require additional steps depending on the province or territory in order to complete the divorce application process, which your lawyer can guide you through as well.
Step 5: The 30-day waiting period.
Once your forms are submitted, then Ottawa’s Divorce Registry will take time to review them and your spouse will be served with divorce papers, for which they have 30 days to respond (in most provinces). If there is no response within this time, you can submit additional paperwork (a lawyer can help here) to continue the process with the courts on your own.
Potentially Step 6: You will need to wait another 30 days if your spouse didn’t respond.
If you had to file additional paperwork because your spouse did not respond to the original serving of divorce papers, then a judge will review and grant a divorce order. You can retrieve a certificate of divorce 30 days after the judge rules for a divorce order. Once you pick up the certificate, you will be officially divorced.
This step-by-step guide is truly intended for those in a separation and uncontested divorce. Should differences of opinion regarding assets, debt and children arise then the process may take much longer and involve further court appearances and negotiation. While filing for divorce in Canada can be performed without a lawyer, it is strongly recommended to hire one to ensure the best possible outcome of the divorce proceedings. Contact a lawyer that specializes in family law in your province or territory to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible.