The paperwork associated with a divorce in Ontario might appear to be easy enough to do, but you need to have at least a basic understanding of the process. You and your spouse might have reached agreement on child custody, support and property division, but unless a lawyer reviewed the settlement agreement, your rights might not be fully protected. Here are a few tips to help you with the divorce paperwork.
Make sure you have grounds for divorce
There must be a legal basis, known as the grounds for a divorce, upon which a court may order the termination of a marriage. The grounds for a divorce in Ontario are contained in the federal Divorce Act and include any of the following:
- Separation from your spouse for at least one year prior to filing the application for divorce.
- Adultery committed by your spouse during the marriage.
- Physical or mental cruelty committed against you by your spouse making it impossible to continue living together.
If you do not have grounds to file for a divorce, you might have to separate from your spouse and wait a year.
Know what to ask for before filing
Before filing an application for divorce with the court, you need to know whether you are asking the court only to terminate the marriage or to terminate the marriage and decide other family law issues, such as the following:
- Custody and access to the children
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Division of property and debts
It is better to resolve these other family law issues through negotiations with your spouse than to leave them for a court to resolve. Asking a court to decide these issues prolongs the time it takes to finalize a divorce and makes it more complicated because a judge probably will hold hearings.
When there are children, courts will not grant a divorce before there is a resolution of the issues of child custody, access to the children and child support. If there are no children and you ask only for a divorce, you could lose your right to make a claim for a division of property you owned with your spouse. Property division claims must be made within six years from the date you separate from your spouse or within two years from the date a divorce is granted.
Decide if you can handle the divorce paperwork on your own
The end of a marriage is an emotional time. It is common for people to experience depression, anxiety and unsettling emotions that could make it difficult or impossible to focus on gathering the information and documents you need to prepare the application and other paperwork for a divorce.
You might consider leaving the entire process to a lawyer if you believe your spouse will be cooperative. An uncooperative spouse could hide assets and income or transfer joint assets to make them unavailable to you.
Make an appointment for a consultation with a lawyer
An Ontario lawyer who practices in the area of family law can review the settlement agreement you reached with your relationship with your children is protected and that the support and division of assets provides for your future financial needs. For example, assets you bring into the marriage, gifts received during the marriage from third parties, and inheritances may not be property subject to division in the divorce. A lawyer might prevent you from giving away assets that belong to you or failing to receive your fair share of property your spouse claims is exempt from division.