A divorce is the only way to legally end a marriage, but there are several different ways to apply for a divorce. Let’s look at the types of divorce in BC to help you decide which is best in your situation.
Types of divorce in British Columbia
BC divorce applications must be brought in the Supreme Court. There are specific family court forms that must be filed—which vary depending on which process you opt for—and set court filing fees associated with each step in the process. Here are the different types of divorce applications:
Contested divorce (or “defended divorce”). If you and your spouse are not able to agree on the terms of separation, a contested divorce application will be necessary. Either spouse can apply to the Court asking a judge to decide the issues in dispute. Unresolved issues may include parenting arrangements, child support, spousal support, and/or division of property and debt. The judge will not grant the divorce until all family law issues are resolved, which can either be at trial or at any point before the trial by negotiated settlement between the spouses.
Uncontested divorce (or “undefended divorce”). If you and your spouse agree about all issues arising from your separation, you still need to apply to the Court to get a divorce order to end the marriage. However, you can apply for the divorce order without having to actually appear in Court. Using the uncontested divorce process, you file your written Separation Agreement and/or existing Court Orders along with the other required family court forms. The judge reviewing the forms and documents you filed will grant the divorce to dissolve the marriage if satisfied that all issues are settled and certain prerequisites have been met (e.g., you and your spouse have been separated for at least one year).
Most BC divorces are obtained by way of an uncontested divorce application. The contested divorce process is more complicated, time-consuming, and expensive.
An uncontested divorce can be sole or joint
When spouses agree on issues arising from their separation, either or both spouses can start the process for an uncontested divorce (also known as a “desk-order divorce”):
If one spouse applies, it is known as a sole application for an uncontested divorce. To initiate this process, you must prepare, file, and serve a Notice of Family Claim and any other required documents on your spouse. He or she has 30 days to respond after being served. If the deadline for filing a response passes without a response from your spouse, you can then move to the next step of applying for a divorce.
If both spouses apply, it is called a joint application for an uncontested divorce. This process is started by preparing and filing a Notice of Joint Family Claim along with other required documents. Because you and your spouse filed jointly, there is no need to serve the court forms on the other party and no need to wait for the response deadline to pass.
Which type of divorce should I get: sole or joint?
The answer to that question will depend on your circumstances. The benefit of a joint application is that time to serve on the other spouse is not required. This shortens the process and saves the costs associated with service of documents. However, a joint application requires a level of cooperation and communication between the spouses. In some cases, cooperation and communication are not feasible. You may no longer be in touch with your spouse, or your spouse may agree that they want the marriage to end but be unwilling to sign the documents or to agree to pay the court fees.
Need Legal Advice from an Experienced BC Divorce Lawyer?
If you are not sure which process to use, consider getting legal advice from an experienced BC divorce lawyer. Contact Valerie M. Little Family Law Corporation to discuss your options and what is best for your situation. Ms. Little's practice is exclusively devoted to issues of family law and divorce. Her office is located in New Westminster and she also serves customers from Burnaby, Coquitlam, Langley and Maple Ridge. She will handle all of the details and paperwork that accompany obtaining a divorce so that you can move forward with your life. Call Valerie M. Little Law Corporation today at 604-526-3333 to get your divorce finalized in as stress-free and efficient manner as possible.