Q: What’s considered grounds for divorce in Canada? What happens if I don’t meet those requirements?
A: Unlike the headlines you may see in the tabloids, there really is no such thing as “grounds for divorce” in Canada. You might hear people say, “She filed for divorce under adultery issues,” which are grounds listed in the Divorce Act, but it is very rare that claims are ever filed under this clause.
In Canada, a divorce can be granted one year from the date of separation with very little, or even no other, consideration. Just file the divorce papers and pay your money. It is common to decide who will pay for or file this document during the negotiation of the Separation agreement.
Divorce, in legal terms, is strictly the annulment of the marriage, and it does not deal with all the resulting issues of property, custody, access and support. But be aware that if a divorce is granted, you are no longer protected under the Family Law Act of Canada. This is why I always caution my clients to be very careful to not file for divorce before their separation agreement is in place. It’s also important to note that very often part of the separation agreement that deals with spouses’ work benefits speaks to the issue of remarriage. So often clients will agree not to file for divorce so that the receiving spouse can continue to get benefits from the former spouses’ employer. This becomes an issue if the paying spouse wants to remarry because he (or she) can’t have two spouses on their plan.
There are other legal benefits to staying married and this should be discussed with your legal counsel. It goes without saying that if you are considering filing for a divorce, first seek the advice of a lawyer in your province to make sure you fully understand what exactly you are gaining and what you are giving up by doing so.
Debbie Hartzman is a certified divorce financial analyst with Professional Investments in Kingston, Ontario.
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