Do I Really Have to Wait a Year to Get Divorced?

In Ontario, the Ontario Superior Court can grant divorce on one of three grounds:

  1. On the basis of separation for a year with no reasonable chance of resuming cohabitation;
  2. On the basis of cruelty;
  3. On the basis of adultery.

In order to get a divorce on any of these grounds, your spouse has to either admit the grounds (in the case of adultery, the party with whom your spouse committed adultery has to admit it as well) or you have to prove the fact after a trial. Spouses will not admit cruelty because doing so could be admitting facts that give rise to criminal charges or that give rise to tort (personal injury) liability. Spouses usually will not admit adultery because doing so can likewise have legal consequences. In addition, to prove adultery, the other party to adultery has to admit to it, which can have negative repercussions for them. So, to get a divorce on the grounds of cruelty or adultery, a spouse has to prove the cruelty or adultery at a trial. To make it through all the family court steps that lead up to a trial takes at least a year. And, for the reasons below, you will NOT get priority in a crowded court calendar to have you trial for a divorce on the grounds of adultery or cruelty. So, by the time you get to your trial, you may have already been able to get your divorce on the grounds of separation for a year.

Ontario has a “no-fault divorce” system. That means that the reason why you are getting divorced does not affect property division, child support, spousal support, or even custody and access unless a spouse’s actions relate to parenting. Having an unnecessary fight over the grounds for a divorce may likely have the unintended consequence of showing a judge that you are a bad parent because you are willing to expose your children to unnecessary conflict. Seeking a divorce on the grounds of adultery or cruelty may actually hurt your custody case. Of course, if your spouse was very very bad and did something awful like commit adultery or be abusive in front of the kids, that would be an important factor that would affect the custody case, whether you sought the divorce on the basis of adultery or cruelty or not. 

All getting a divorce means is that you are free to remarry. Things like custody, access, child support, spousal support and property division are called “corollary issues.” You do not have to wait a year to ask a court to deal with the corollary issues. A court can deal with parenting issues, support issues, and even some property issues, right after you separate. If you are particularly good a resolving matters, then all the corollary issues may be finished in less than a year and you just have to wait the year to get the divorce.

However, for a court to have the jurisdiction to deal with custody, access or support under the Divorce Act, one of the parties must have lived in the same municipality as the court for at least a year. You cannot even start divorce proceedings in Ontario if one of the spouses has not lived in the province for a year. Fortunately, you can ask the court to deal with custody and access under Ontario’s Children’s Law Reform Act and support under the Family Law Act, right after separation and then wait a year to get the court to make the same orders under the Divorce Act.

If you do not need a court to decide parenting, support or property issues, you can just ask the court to give you an uncontested divorce after you have been separated for a year.

For even more information about separation and divorce, all the corollary issues surrounding them, and your options for dealing with child custody, access, child support, spousal support, property division and many more family law issues, pick up a copy of this easy-to-understand best-selling book on Ontario Family Law. It also includes a number of tips to help you succeed and get what you want in your divorce.

It is always best to get advice that is specific to your situation, particularly from a good Ontario Divorce Lawyer who will give you direct advice immediately. Little facts can make big differences in family law, so booking a consultation with a lawyer is almost always well worth the cost. To get in contact with Certified Specialist in Family Law, John Schuman, use the contact form below, or the phone number at the top of the page. You can also use that form to comment on this page.

If you found this page helpful, feel free to share it on your social network using the buttons at the bottom of the page.

John Schuman Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law book cover

You can get a lot more information about Ontario Family Law issues, including a comprehensive explanation of parenting cases (parenting time and decision making), child support, spousal support, property division, and most other common family law issues by downloading this $9.99 Kindle eBook, Kobo eBook, or iBook for your iPad or iPhone or ordering it from Amazon as a paperback. But to understand how the law works precisely in your situation, it is always best to speak to a good Family Law Lawyer.

To comment on this article, or to contact John Schuman, please use the form below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *