Divorce is a legal process but also an emotional one. It can be challenging to make clear, well-considered decisions during separation from a spouse or adult interdependent partner but the decisions you make now are important and may affect your longer-term future.
It helps to understand how to file for divorce and the processes you will go through before the final divorce judgement is issued by the Alberta courts and you are legally divorced.
Here are the steps you will need to take before, during and after filing for divorce.
Before you can file for divorce in Alberta…
Before you file for divorce in Alberta, you will need to consider the grounds for divorce and ensure that you meet the province’s residency requirement.
You or your spouse must have been living in Alberta for one year before starting your divorce. Additionally, the legally acceptable grounds for divorce are the following:
- Separation: when the spouses have lived apart for at least one year before a divorce judgment is made by the court (you can start the divorce action before the one-year period expires).
- Adultery: when a married person has sex with someone other than their spouse.
- Cruelty: when either spouse commits physical or mental cruelty to the other spouse.
Separation is by far the most commonly cited of the grounds for divorce in Alberta. It is considered a no-fault divorce, where no blame is apportioned to either spouse for the divorce, which helps avoid disputes.
Divorcing couples usually prepare a separation agreement before filing for divorce. This document outlines the decisions that the spouses have made concerning the key divorce elements, such as the division of the marital estate/debts, spousal support, child support and parenting.
If you have not worked out these issues before you file for divorce, you will need to do so afterwards before the final divorce judgement is signed by a Justice.
The divorce process in Alberta
Once you are ready to file for divorce, you will need to follow these steps:
1. Collect, complete, and return the Statement of Claim for Divorce
Collecting and completing the “Statement of Claim for Divorce” starts the process. One spouse will be the “plaintiff” (the person initiating the divorce) and the other the “defendant.”
Once you have collected or downloaded the form, you must complete it, sign it, and deliver it to the Courthouse to be filed.
2. Serve the divorce papers to your spouse
The Statement of Claim for Divorce must be “served” on the defendant (i.e., your spouse). By having these papers personally delivered to a defendant, the court ensures that both parties involved are aware of the legal proceedings.
In Alberta, papers must be served by someone other than the plaintiff. If that is impossible, you can ask the Court for an Order for Substitutional Service or an Order to serve the papers outside of Canada, if applicable.
If you are the defendant and are served with a Statement of Claim for Divorce, acknowledge it, and follow the standard procedures rather than ignoring it. Otherwise, the court may proceed without your input and that can result in a disadvantageous outcome.
3. Note the key demands/deadlines in the statement of divorce claim
The Statement of Claim is a templated document and rarely reflects what the final outcome will be. Remain calm, review it, and note the key deadline dates that it details.
For instance, financial disclosure documents may be requested. If so, note the date that you must comply with the request and contact your lawyer so that you can begin gathering the necessary documentation.
Your lawyer will help you prepare the next steps so that you meet all of the requirements and comply with all dates when it comes to submitting documents.
1. Disputing the Statement of Claim of Divorce
In uncontested divorces (sometimes called “desk divorces”), the couple agrees on the grounds for divorce and all of the fundamental issues involved. These divorces are usually the quickest and cheapest to process.
However, some defendants dispute the Statement of Claim for Divorce and many dispute the terms of divorce before finalizing a separation agreement. To do so, they must file a Statement of Defence within 20 days of receiving the Statement of Claim.
2. File the other necessary forms
If the defendant does not dispute the Statement of Defence, the divorce will proceed, remembering that you must have been separated for at least a year before a divorce can be formally granted (unless you are filing due to adultery or cruelty).
The plaintiff will often file a Sworn Affidavit of Service, Noting in Default, Request for Divorce, Affidavit of Applicant, and a proposed Divorce Judgement.
The affidavit you file should include the following:
- Original Marriage Certificate
- Copy of any orders or agreements about your divorce, and
- Copy of any previous Certificates of Divorce, if applicable.
For marriages with children, some other forms are required, most notably:
- Child Support Data Sheets
- Parenting After Separation Certificate or Exemption Form, and
- Divorce Judgement that includes arrangements for the children
3. The Divorce Judgement is signed
Once the clerk of the court provides the divorce file for a Justice to examine, you are almost there — provided all the paperwork is in order and no outstanding issues remain.
The Justice will sign the Divorce Judgement and it will be returned to the clerk, who will mail copies to the plaintiff and the defendant. This may take up to six weeks.
4. Request a Certificate of Divorce
There is one more step to take. The Divorce Judgment becomes final 31 days after it has been signed. You can then request a Certificate of Divorce from the courthouse.
This signifies the end of the divorce action and proves that you are no longer married.
Contact a divorce lawyer in Calgary
The divorce process may sound relatively simple on paper, but few divorces proceed without hiccups.
The good news is that most divorces in Calgary require little court intervention and the key matters can be resolved with timely discussions, a spirit of compromise and expert legal guidance.
Alternative dispute resolution methods like collaboration and mediation can generally be used to resolve differences rather than litigation.
The experienced divorce lawyers at Jennings Family Law in Calgary provide practical divorce solutions in the best interests of our clients. Book a confidential consultation to discuss your legal options. Jennings Family Law offers a $2,000* flat-fee uncontested divorce.
*Uncontested divorce application that includes filing fees. $2,500 with children.