Getting a Divorce Without Going to Court
Even if you and your spouse have separated and you both agree that you want to divorce, the only way to legally end a marriage is by getting a divorce order. In BC, a divorce order must be issued by a judge of the Supreme Court. That being said, it is possible to get a BC divorce order without setting foot in a courtroom if you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement on all marital issues such as parenting, child support, spousal support, division of property and debt. Here is what you need to know about getting a divorce without going to court.
Contested Divorce Vs. Uncontested Divorce in BC
There are two different paths to getting a divorce in BC: uncontested divorce and contested divorce. Both paths start with filing a family claim in the BC Supreme Court, but the steps beyond that depend on how your spouse responds and whether there are unresolved issues:
- If you and your spouse cannot agree on all issues, it is a “contested divorce” and you will be asking the court to decide the unresolved issues based on evidence you and your spouse present at a trial. The process for a contested divorce – which is also known as a “defended divorce” – is more complicated, more expensive, and it typically takes much longer to obtain a divorce order. If you have been served with a Notice of Family Claim and do not agree with the claims made by your spouse, it is recommended that you contact an experienced BC family lawyer as soon as possible for advice and help in preparing and filing your response.
- If you and your spouse are able to agree on all issues, or if your spouse does not respond within 30 days of being served with your family claim, it is known as an “undefended divorce” or “uncontested divorce.” You can apply for what is known as a “desk order divorce” which, if done properly, means you will get a divorce order without going to court or having a formal appearance before a judge. This process is less involved and less costly than the contested divorce process and can lead to a quicker resolution.
It is important to note that even if your family claim starts out as a contested divorce action, it may end up being resolved by desk order if you and your spouse are later able to reach settlement on all matrimonial matters (for example, by using mediation or the collaborative divorce process, at a Judicial Case Conference, or by way of negotiated Separation Agreement).
What Is a Desk Order Divorce and How Do You Apply for One?
An uncontested divorce application is also called a “desk order divorce” because a BC Supreme Court judge considers the application for divorce from his or her desk. To be eligible to use the desk order divorce process, your application must satisfy the judge that all you need is the divorce order.
The judge reviewing the application will sign off on or “endorse” the divorce order without you or your spouse having to go to court, but only if all of the necessary forms, affidavits, supporting materials, and a draft of the final divorce order are filed with the court and the proper filing fees are paid. The information contained in the application must satisfy the judge reviewing the application that all issues have been resolved and in particular, that you have made reasonable arrangements for the children. A suitable parenting plan must be in place and child support must be being paid under the Child Support Guidelines.
Desk Order Divorces Are Simpler… but Not Necessarily Simple
A desk order divorce is also sometimes referred to as a “simple divorce” but the process is, in actuality, quite complex and highly technical. A significant number of desk order applications are rejected by the court due to missing information, errors, or failure to follow proper procedure.
The desk order divorce application can be refiled once the mistakes have been corrected, but this will result in increased costs and delay in obtaining a divorce order – especially if the application is rejected for a second or third time. It can take anywhere from one to four months for the court to review the application each time it is submitted. To save time, money, and frustration, the best course of action is to have an experienced divorce lawyer prepare the application on your behalf.
Need Legal Advice from an Experienced BC Divorce Lawyer?
If you need advice from a BC divorce lawyer, contact Valerie M. Little Family Law Corporation. Ms. Little's practice is exclusively devoted to issues of family law and divorce. Our office is located in New Westminster and we also serve customers from Burnaby, Coquitlam, Langley and Maple Ridge. We will handle all of the paperwork and hassles that accompany divorce so that you can focus on your life. Call Valerie M. Little Law Corporation today at 604-526-3333 to get your divorce finalized in as pain-free and efficient manner as possible.