A simple guide on the divorce process in Ontario

A marriage certificate being cut in half by scissors

Going through a divorce can be overwhelming. It can be hard to admit that your marriage has ended and that the love you once had is now over. It can be even more difficult navigating the legal divorce process and what you need to do to get a divorce. That is where we come in. In this article, we will review how divorce works in Ontario, how to qualify for divorce and other important things you should know.

Knowing the difference between a separation and a divorce.

Commonly confused, a separation and a divorce are two separate things.

A separation is when one or both spouses decide to live separately with the intention of never living together again. With a separation agreement, you will need to make decisions on custody, child support, spousal support, property, and so on. A separation agreement is a legal document that is signed by both you and your spouse that describes the arrangements you have both agreed to. It is best to work with a professional separation lawyer to create an agreement for you. if you and your spouse create an informal agreement and one party does not honour that agreement, you will not have any legal protection.

The big difference between a separation and a divorce is that a separation does not legally end a marriage. A divorce is the legal ending of a marriage. It is an order signed by a judge under the Divorce Act.

If you and your partner were never legally married…

Divorce does not apply to you. You only need a divorce if you were legally married. However, if you were considered common law and you have shared assets or children, you can still create a separation agreement. If you have children, own property together, you should get a separation agreement.

How does a divorce work?

You and your partner are not legally divorced until a judge grants you a divorce order.

Before you begin moving forward with a divorce, it is important for you to consider if you are truly ready for a divorce. For example, you might consider marriage counselling. Marriage counselling is an effective way to help resolve the issues in your relationship. However, if you have tried counselling and firmly believe divorce is your best option, then you should move forward with a divorce.

To get a divorce in Ontario, you do not have to be a Canadian citizen, but you do need to be legally married. In Ontario, you are eligible for a divorce if you can prove that your marriage has broken down. This can be done in one of three ways:

  1. You and your spouse have lived separately for at least 1 year and have no intention of reconciling.
  2. Your spouse has committed adultery and you have not forgiven them.
  3. Your spouse is physically or mentally abusive making living together intolerable.

If one or more of these scenarios apply to you, you can file for a divorce.

Proving the breakdown of your marriage. 

If you are requesting a divorce because of a marriage breakdown, shown by living apart for at least one year, you do not need to prove your spouse is at fault. Under the Divorce Act, you do not need to prove that your spouse was at fault to get a divorce. After living separately for one year, either you or your spouse can apply to get a divorce (or you can apply together).

However, if the reason you are asking for a divorce is because of adultery or abuse, you will need to provide proof of what happened.

How to start a divorce application

When beginning the divorce process, your first step should be to find a divorce lawyer that is knowledgeable about family law. More specifically, find a divorce lawyer that has experience in areas of family law that pertain to your situation. As an example, let us say that your biggest concern about your divorce is child support. Choose to work with a divorce lawyer with experience working cases concerning child support.

It is always advisable to work with a divorce lawyer. They can advise you on what your rights are, how to approach each situation, and how the law applies to your specific situation.

When you start a divorce application, you are required to fill out the necessary forms depending on which province you live in. If you have a divorce lawyer representing you, they will fill out the forms for you and be responsible for processing your divorce. You can get these forms from government bookstores, the internet, court offices, or information centers.

Be sure to fill out all necessary forms that apply to your specific situation. Again, by working with a professional divorce lawyer, they can assist you and ensure that you have all the required documentation you need. For example, if you and your spouse have a child together, you will need to decide on parenting arrangements and child support agreement.

If you or your spouse are having a difficult time agreeing on any arrangements, you will need to outline the arrangements you are seeking. If you and your spouse agree to all the terms of your divorce, you can move forward with an uncontested divorce.

After completing the forms, you file them at the courthouse and follow the court rules for your next steps.

What if you apply for divorce and try to live with your spouse again?

If you have applied for a divorce and have been living separately for 1 year, you can live with each other for a maximum of 90 days if you are trying to reconcile. If you decide that the marriage will still not work, you can continue with a divorce as if you had not spent that time together.

To learn more or to start the divorce process, work with us today. 

To learn more about what you need to get a divorce, or you are seeking legal assistance from a divorce lawyer, we can help you at Galbraith Family Law. With our professional team of experienced lawyers, we can help you through the divorce process as seamlessly as possible. To get started, book a consultation with us today by calling one of our five offices across Ontario. For our Toronto offices call 647-370-8965, for our Newmarket office call 289-210-4692 or you can reach us at our Barrie office at 705-230-2734.

Brian Galbraith

Brian Galbraith is the owner and founder of Galbraith Family Law Professional Corporation. Brian is known in the legal community for his commitment to efficiently practicing family law using technology and streamlining the divorce processes.

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