Divorce in BC: Where to Start
Spouses who attempt to use online toolkits without the benefit of legal advice or who attempt to navigate the divorce process on their own often find out quickly that what seemed like a “simple” divorce can go sideways quickly.
Emotions run high when it comes to untangling your lives. If you are separating from your spouse and want a divorce to end your marriage, there are important steps that must be taken. Here is what you should know about where to start when it comes to getting a divorce in BC.
You need a court order to get a divorce in BC
The only way to get divorced in BC is by a court order. Of course, it is always an option for you and your spouse to negotiate a Separation Agreement that deals with all issues except the divorce such as parenting, guardianship, child custody; child support, section 7 expenses, spousal support and division of family property and family debt. But even if you and your spouse are able to agree on all outstanding issues, the only way to legally end a marriage is by a court order and that means starting proceedings in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
There are very technical rules for starting court proceedings
Getting a divorce in BC starts with filing a Notice of Family Claim in BC Supreme Court along with a typed Registration of Divorce Proceeding form. Once you have filed your materials with the court and arranged with an adult process server to have your documents personally served on your spouse, your spouse has 30 days to file certain forms to contest your claim(s). There are very technical rules for serving your divorce documents and there is a very specific Affidavit your process server must swear once service has been effected. Within 30 days your spouse is served with the Notice of Family Claim, they may file a Response to Family Claim or Counterclaim.
If this occurs, you will have to settle your differences either by the agreement reached through negotiation, mediation or by hearings or trial in court. Beyond the initial forms to start the process, there are numerous other court forms and affidavits that must be filed to obtain a divorce in BC. If the rules are not strictly followed, the divorce application may be rejected by the court. This will result in a delay in obtaining your divorce and likely further paperwork to correct any deficiencies.
Timing is an important consideration when getting a divorce in BC
There are significant considerations with respect to timing that arise both before proceedings can be started and throughout the court proceedings to obtain a divorce order. For example:
· Unless you are relying on the grounds of cruelty or adultery, you and your spouse must have lived separate and apart for more than a year before the court can grant a divorce in BC (See here for our family lawyer’s discussion of how to determine your separation date).
· If your spouse does not file a Response or Counterclaim within 30 days of being served, you can proceed by way of uncontested or “desk order” divorce. For this option, you must file an Affidavit Desk Order Divorce and a Child Support Affidavit if you have children. If those Affidavits are not filed within 30 days of swearing them, you will need to re-swear them.
We recommend you have a look at this post for more details on when you can file for divorce in BC and other considerations with respect to timing such as what happens if you and your spouse reconcile and then separate again.
The court will not grant a divorce if there are outstanding issues
Aside from the procedural technicalities, there are also complex legal and financial issues that must be addressed before a divorce order will be granted, including the care of children, the payment of child support and spousal support and the division of property and debt. If you and your spouse are able to agree on all outstanding issues, the Separation Agreement you negotiate and the sign can become incorporated into the divorce judgment.
If you and your spouse are not able to resolve all issues, you can ask for “corollary relief” in the divorce proceedings. This means that you can ask the court to make orders on the disputed issues in the divorce case. Get the guidance and expertise of an experienced family law lawyer before you start any legal process.
The bottom line on where to start if you want to get a divorce in BC
If you are wondering where to start, the first step should be consulting with a skilled divorce lawyer. A divorce lawyer is familiar with the technical side of legal proceedings, including the grounds for divorce and the ideal timing to seek a divorce in your situation. If you retain our divorce lawyer, our firm will handle all of the paperwork and hassles that accompany your divorce so that you can move forward with your life as soon as possible. No matter what family law questions or issues you might be facing, consider calling Valerie M. Little for honest, straightforward, practical and experienced legal advice. Her team will provide you with the confidentiality, care and understanding you need to make the best decision to move forward with your life. For more information about her family law office or to schedule your personal, one-on-one consultation with Valerie to explore the legal options that are best for you, please call her law office today. She and her family law team are ready to give you their support and to help you successfully navigate your family law issues whether inside or outside of the courtroom.
This blog is intended as general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice for any particular situation. Please consult a qualified family law professional before making any family law decisions.