Canadian Divorce Laws

Updated August 13, 2018
Canadian Divorce Laws

Canadian divorce laws have gone through a number of changes in the past few decades. At one time, it was only possible to obtain a divorce in certain provinces. However, that all changed with the Divorce Act of 1968.

History of Canadian Divorce

If you wanted to get a divorce in Canada in 1967, good luck. Not only were there not any federal divorce laws, but you would be hard pressed to find someone to give you a divorce. This was because most provinces followed the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857. Not only was it harder for women to get a divorce than men, but it was typically only allowed with the cause of adultery, and getting proof of that was hard. Even if you were granted a divorce, you were left with nothing because a woman couldn't get support if she committed adultery, and a man didn't have a right to it at all.

Divorce Act

The Divorce Act of 1968 welcomed in a new era of divorce in Canada because spouses could get a divorce for reasons other than adultery. This act included Breakdown of the Marriage as criteria for a divorce, and it is still used today.

Breakdown of the Marriage

So, what exactly does it mean that the marriage has broken down? Basically, it means something happened for you not to be able to live together any longer. In this case, you separate. After the couple separated for at least three years, they could file for a divorce, and they needed to prove they lived separate lives. The Breakdown of Marriage still remains a viable reason for divorce, but time frames for separation have changed in recent years.

Extenuating Circumstances

Like most divorce laws, there were a few ways to get a divorce immediately. If you could prove your spouse had committed adultery, it was grounds for an immediate divorce and still is. The other clause for getting your marriage dissolved was to prove you were mistreated either mentally or physically, something that still remains on the books.

Updates and Changes

Three years seems like a really long time, and the Canadian government thought so too, so they refined the law in 1985. Not only was the separation period changed to one year, but it also brought about the idea of joint filing and child support. Additionally, in June 2003, the wording of Section 2 of the Divorce Act was changed to comply with the Civil Marriage Act, establishing same-sex marriages.

Getting a Divorce in Canada Today

Currently in Canada, the breakdown of the marriage still applies in order to apply for a divorce. Therefore, either party can apply, and no party is considered at fault. Unless parties can prove adultery or mistreatment, they must be separated for one year before they can file. The time from filing to completion takes about 6 months.

Division of Assets

The laws for asset division can vary slightly by the different provinces. However in general, most assets each party has are split equally. The exception to this is the house that you both reside in. The house is considered communal property, and you both have rights to it.

Spousal Support

If there is a large difference in the income of two married individuals when they separate, then the person taking on hardship by the divorce might receive spousal support. This can help to compensate for child care and even compensate sacrifices made during the marriage. There are several factors that go into considering spousal support, including length of the marriage, care of children, needs of both spouses, and roles during the marriage.

Cost of Divorce in Canada

Divorces are expensive. There is no way to get around it. If you have an uncontested divorce, it will be cheaper. The Canadian Legal Resource Centre Inc. states an uncontested divorce will run about $1,500 dollars. However, a contested divorce gets more expensive. This type of divorce can cost you about $15,000 dollars to get things settled.

Getting Divorced

Sometimes a marriage just doesn't work. While the laws for getting a divorce are different everywhere, Canada offers a unique perspective through their Divorce Act.

Canadian Divorce Laws