One of the potentially confusing aspects of family law matters in Ontario is the intersection of federal and provincial laws. That might leave you asking, can I get a divorce in Ontario, or will I have to file elsewhere? Here’s what you need to know. And what else should I know about the basic process?
What Are the Residency Requirements for an Ontario Divorce?
Canada’s federal Divorce Act governs divorce proceedings nationwide, including in Ontario. When married couples wish to divorce in Ontario, one or both spouses must meet certain residency requirements to file:
- Residency in Canada: At least one of the spouses must have lived in the Canadian territory or province in which the divorce will be filed for at least one year before filing for divorce. Divorce Act S. 3(1), 4(1)
- Residency in Ontario: Divorce cases must usually be initiated in the municipality where the filing party resides. Ontario Family Law Rules R. 5(1)(a)
Are There Any Exceptions to the Residency Requirements?
Normally, at least one spouse must be a Canadian resident to file for divorce in Canada. If neither partner lives in Canada, ending the marriage through the Divorce Act isn’t usually an option. However, there’s a workaround if a couple married in Canada and can’t get divorced in another country because it doesn’t acknowledge their Canadian marriage.
For this workaround, you would end the marriage under the Civil Marriage Act (see s. 7(1)) by filing with the Superior Court in the province or territory of Canada where you married. Bear in mind that this action will only terminate your marital status. If you need to sort out any matters concerning child or spousal maintenance, you would have to do so in your current place of residence.
What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Ontario?
In Canada, the divorce system operates mostly on a no-fault basis, meaning you don’t have to prove your spouse did something wrong to get a divorce. Under the Divorce Act, there’s a single legal ground for divorce: the breakdown of the marriage. The act enumerates specific conditions in section 8 of the Act that can establish that the marriage has broken down.
The most common ground for divorce is living apart for a period of one year or longer. You don’t have to wait one year to file; you do have to have lived one year in Ontario before you file.
You can pause the separation and cohabit for up to 90 days, either before or after initiating the divorce process, to explore reconciliation. If reconciliation efforts fail, the separation clock resumes, and you can proceed with the divorce as if the separation had been continuous.
Evidence of your spouse’s adultery or physical or mental cruelty can obviate the need for a year-long separation. Most cases do not proceed on these ‘fault’ grounds but rather, one normally waits for the one year separation period to expire.
Do You Need a Divorce Lawyer in Ontario?
Getting a divorce is a life-changing event that requires careful attention to many details that could significantly affect your future. Although hiring a lawyer is not a legal requirement, doing so is so beneficial that the Province of Ontario’s website recommends this course to anyone considering filing for divorce. Your Ontario family law lawyer can:
- Demystify Legal Jargon: The legal world has its own language, and a lawyer can translate it into one you can understand. That way, you are empowered to make informed decisions about your future.
- Handle Related Issues: Important matters like child residency and decision making (formerly called “custody”), property division, and spousal support require meticulous and knowledgeable attention. A lawyer can handle every part of your case with the consideration it deserves.
- Manage Your Case Efficiently: The legal process can be time-consuming. Having a lawyer manage your case can expedite procedures, from filing paperwork to negotiating agreements.
- Avoid Common Mistakes: It’s easy to make errors in the emotional and unfamiliar process of divorce. A lawyer can prevent costly mistakes that could affect the outcome of your case.
- Provide Peace of Mind: Knowing a professional is handling your case can significantly reduce your stress, letting you focus on the rest of your life during this challenging time.
Contact an Experienced Divorce Lawyer Today
Are you ready to take the first step toward a better future for yourself and your family? Trust in the proven experience of the Gene C. Colman Family Law Centre. Contact us today to arrange your confidential consultation, or get started online now.