According to statistics compiled by the federal government, more than 14 million Canadians are married and living with their spouses, but almost 3 million people are either separated from their spouses or already divorced. Divorce is the process of terminating the marital relationship, but there are other issues, including child support and custody, parenting time, property division and spousal support, that complicate it and raise questions in the minds of people contemplating ending their relationship and seeking a divorce. The following are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about divorce.
What is a divorce?
Marriage grants each of the parties certain legally enforceable rights and obligations. For instance, it is an equal partnership as to most property the parties acquire during the marriage also grants each party equal right to live in the marital home.
If their relationship deteriorates, the parties to a marriage may agree to live separate and apart without any formalities. Even though they no longer live together, the parties to a marriage continue to maintain their legal status as being married. A divorce is the legal process of ending a marriage, which can only be accomplished with a court order.
Do I need grounds for a divorce?
You must have grounds for a divorce. The Divorce Act authorizes a court to grant a divorce to either or both spouses when there is proof of the breakdown of the marriage. The following are the three circumstances under which you could have grounds for divorce:
- You and your spouse have lived apart for at least one year prior to the filing of an application for a divorce.
- Your spouse committed adultery while married to you.
- You have been the victim of physical or mental cruelty at the hands of your spouse making it intolerable for you to continue living together as a married couple.
If you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for at least one year and have resolved the financial, child custody and support issues to your mutual satisfaction, you can file a joint application for a divorce in Ontario.
Can I get a divorce right away?
If you have grounds for divorce and have reached a negotiated agreement with your spouse about child custody and the financial issues related to the marriage, a divorce could be completed within a few months. However, it can take much longer if you leave those issues to the court to resolve. You cannot be granted a divorce without the other issues being resolved first.
Do couples living together without being married need to file for divorce?
Only married couples must file an application for a divorce to legally end their relationship. Couples living in a common-law relationship need not go through the divorce process. However, couples with children, regardless of their marital status, must resolve child support, child custody, parenting time and other issues related to their children when they break up.
Can I begin the divorce case in any court?
If you living in Ontario, you can file an application for divorce in either the Ontario Court of Justice or in the Superior Court of Justice depending upon the issues you are asking the court to decide. Cases in which all financial and child custody issues have been resolved by agreement can be filed in the Ontario Court of Justice. However, if you have not reached an agreement with your spouse and need the court to resolve remaining issues, your application goes to the Superior Court of Justice.
Do I need a lawyer?
A lawyer with experience handling family law matters, including divorce, provides the legal advice and guidance you need to ensure your rights are protected. Your lawyer’s assistance in negotiating a settlement of custody and financial issues saves you time and avoids delaying the divorce process.