Ending a Married Relationship under the Divorce Act

Law

Married spouses can get a divorce using Canada’s Divorce Act. See the sections below to learn more about:

  • Living “separate and apart” (including when it begins and how to prove it)
  • The “grounds for divorce” (reasons you can get a divorce)
  • Using the Divorce Act or using Alberta’s Family Law Act to deal with separation matters
  • Getting an annulment
  • How separation and divorce affects your taxes
  • Changing your name
  • Updating your Will and other legal documents
  • Having a foreign divorce recognized in Canada
  • Same-sex couples from other countries getting a divorce in Canada using the Civil Marriage Act
  • How to complete your divorce, including going to court to get a divorce and getting a “joint divorce” or a “desk divorce”

Choose the Process tab above for forms and detailed information about the court process.

Be Aware

The Divorce Act may not apply to you. Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: March 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page contains information about the law of getting a divorce.

This Information Page is for spouses who are in a married relationship and who are planning on divorcing. This must be done using Canada’s Divorce Act.
If you are ex-partners who were in a non-married relationship, you are on the wrong Information Page. You must deal with all of your separation issues using Alberta’s Family Law Act. The federal Divorce Act does not apply to you. See the Ending a Non-Married Romantic Relationship Information Page instead.

If you are not sure if you were married or not, see the Getting Married Information Page.

There are many legal issues to consider when divorcing. This Information Page deals only with the actual divorce. See the following Information Pages for more information about other issues to consider.

In general, the law and process on this Information Page is about people who live in Alberta. Although the Divorce Act is federal legislation, most issues will be heard in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. It may not be possible for the matter to be heard in Alberta if:

  • any of your issues will involve courts in another province (or have already); or
  • any of the parties live in another province, or have been “ordinarily resident” outside of Alberta during the past year.

For more information about out-of-province issues, including how “ordinarily resident” is defined, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which has information on what the law says about getting a divorce in Alberta under the Divorce Act. For information on the process you need to follow to get the divorce, click on the Process tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The law and legal system are complex: this will take a while. Be sure to give yourself enough time to read the information below, understand how it applies to your situation, and know what actions you may need to take.

The first topic is “What the words mean.” Please read this section even if you think you already know what the words mean. In order to understand the resources on this page, you will need to understand the legal terms.

A second very important section is "Using the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act." If you are planning on getting a "divorce,” you will likely want to solve all of your divorce-related issues using the Divorce Act (and once the paperwork for the divorce is filed, you will have to use the Divorce Act). But married people have a choice to use a different law: Alberta’s Family Law Act. This is a complicated area with many considerations, and they are examined in detail in the “Using the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act” section below.

What the words mean

These words are not listed alphabetically—they are in the order that makes it easiest to understand the complete legal picture.

If you are looking for a specific term, you can use the Glossary, which is in alphabetical order.

spouse

A person who is legally married to another person.

separation

When a couple (married or unmarried) decides to live apart from each other because the relationship has broken down.

separation agreement

A contract created by partners or spouses to deal with the issues that come up as they end their relationship.

This agreement can address many topics, including:

  • child custody, access, guardianship, and parenting time arrangements;
  • child support;
  • spousal/partner support; and
  • property division.

The separating couple can reach this agreement on their own, or with the help of third parties (such as mediators or lawyers).

divorce

When a court officially ends a marriage. Only legally married couples can divorce.

plaintiff

The person who files the Statement of Claim for Divorce.

defendant

The spouse of the person who files the Statement of Claim for Divorce.

party

Any person involved in a dispute. It can also refer to each of the people who sign a contract.

grounds for divorce

These are the “reasons” that a divorce can be granted. If none of these reasons apply to you, you cannot get a divorce. See the “Grounds for divorce” section below for more information.

contested divorce

A divorce is “contested” when one spouse asks for a divorce and things associated with it (such as child-related and support issues), and the other spouse disagrees with what the first spouse has asked for. As a result, the spouses will need to resolve their disagreements, and this may require involving the court. See the “Getting the divorce: Your court options” section below for more information.

uncontested divorce

A divorce is “uncontested” when one spouse asks for a divorce and things associated with it (such as child-related and support issues) and the other spouse does not respond at all, or does not respond within the time that is given.

joint divorce

A divorce is considered a “joint divorce” when one spouse asks for a divorce and things associated with it (such as child-related and support issues) and the other spouse agrees with what the first spouse has asked for. As a result, there are no disagreements to be resolved through the court system. See the “Getting the divorce: Your court options” section below for more information.

desk divorce

To get a “desk divorce,” the spouses do not have to appear in front of a judge; instead, the paperwork is simply sent up to a judge’s office and is dealt with at the judge’s desk. The most common examples of desk divorces are the joint divorce and the uncontested divorce (see above). However, even if you have started court proceedings, and even if you have already made one or more applications in court, you can still come to an agreement and get the final divorce judgment by sending the paperwork up to the judge’s desk (and sometimes this is also called a “desk” divorce). For more information, see the “Getting the divorce: Your court options” section below.

corollary relief

The legal issues associated with the divorce, which are covered by the Divorce Act. “Corollary relief” includes: custody, access, child support, and spousal support. The division of property is not covered by the Divorce Act, and therefore not part of “corollary relief.” In Alberta, the division of property is covered by the Alberta Matrimonial Property Act.

divorce proceedings

A court action where either or both spouses ask for a divorce. This divorce could be asked for on its own, or together with related requests that the court also deals with (such as custody, access, child support, and/or spousal support).

the pleadings

The information contained in:

  • the documents filed by the party starting a court action; and
  • the documents filed in response by the other party.

For example, the Plaintiff’s Statement of Claim and the Defendant’s Statement of Defence are the “pleadings” in a court action. They describe what both parties are asking for from the court.

to “swear” or “affirm” something

When you “swear” something, you are making a promise that what you are saying is true. This promise is often made over an object that is holy to you (such as the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran), or in the name of a deity you believe in (such as God or Allah). This is also called taking “an oath.” For people who do not want to swear over a holy book or in the name of a deity, this promise is called “affirming.”

If you swear that something you wrote is true, it may be called a “sworn” statement.

Using the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act: What to consider

When a couple divorces, there are many legal issues to be considered. For example: division of property, spousal support, custody of and access to children, and child support.

To get a divorce (in other words, to legally end the marriage) you will have to use the federal Divorce Act, and you can learn all about how that is done by reading the rest of this Information Page.

For division of property, you will have to use Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act. For more information about that, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

However, for the other issues, you will have a choice to make. This is because, for spousal support, child support, and custody/access issues, you do not necessarily have to use the Divorce Act. Instead, you can use Alberta’s Family Law Act. This is a very important choice—although the Family Law Act is similar to the Divorce Act, there are important differences that could affect your rights and responsibilities. See the following resource for more information.

PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 4-6.

The factors listed below should be carefully considered before you start any court action.

Has a Statement of Claim for Divorce already been filed?

Perhaps you are reading this after your spouse has already taken steps to start the separation and divorce process. If that is the case, you may not have a choice about how to proceed.

If a Statement of Claim for Divorce has been filed, spouses must continue to use the Divorce Act for any custody, access, or support matters.

However, if no Statement of Claim for Divorce has been filed yet, then you can still choose to use the Family Law Act to deal with matters of custody and access, child support, and partner support.

Alberta’s two-court system

If you choose to use the Divorce Act, your matter must be heard in the Court of Queen’s Bench (QB). On the other hand, if you choose to use the Family Law Act, you may be able to have your matters heard in Provincial Court (PC).

The two courts have very different processes and requirements. Some of these differences will be described as part of the other considerations listed below. For detailed information on the differences between the two courts, see the following resource and the Alberta’s Two-Court System Information Page.

PDF The Canadian Legal System: Legal Information for Frontline Service Providers
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
Be Aware

The Alberta courts generally prefer to keep all matters relating to one family within one court. As a result, you may be encouraged to handle all of your issues in one level of court. However, just because you choose a court that you would prefer does not mean that your matter will stay there. Your circumstances may change and you may have to change courts. For example: if you started a court action in PC, but then your spouse files for divorce, then everything else must be heard in QB once that occurs.

Do you want to get an actual “divorce”?

Most married couples who are separating wish to divorce. The “divorce” part of the separation can only be handled by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench (QB) using the federal Divorce Act.

As a result, many people who are married deal with their separation and child-related issues in QB using the Divorce Act. The reasoning is, if a couple has to go to QB under the Divorce Act to get their divorce anyway, they might as well handle all of their issues in the same place.

However, custody and access, child support, and spousal support do not have to be dealt with under the Divorce Act, or in QB. Maybe you aren’t planning to get divorced right now, or ever—you may just wish to permanently separate. You can choose to deal with your separation issues under Alberta’s Family Law Act.

If you choose to use the Family Law Act, and if you need to go to court to resolve your issues, you will have to choose to have your matter heard in either the Court of Queen’s Bench or Provincial Court. For more detailed information about how the two courts deal with each divorce-related issue, see the list of individual Information Pages at the end of this section.

Be Aware

The Alberta courts prefer to keep all matters relating to one family within one court whenever possible. As a result, you may be encouraged to handle all of your issues in one level of court.

Do you need to deal with dividing matrimonial property in court?

When you divorce, the division of property can only be dealt with by the Court of Queen’s Bench (QB). If you think you will need to go to court to divide property, that will mean that you will likely want to resolve your issues in QB.

This does not mean that you must choose the Divorce Act to resolve your separation issues, because both the Divorce Act and Family Law Act can be used in Queen’s Bench. However, this combined with the other factors in your situation might help you decide which law to use.

Be Aware

The Alberta courts prefer to keep all matters relating to one family within one court. As a result, you may be encouraged to handle all of your issues in one level of court.

Are you dealing with issues that must be decided in Queen’s Bench?

There are certain issues that can only be heard and decided upon in the Court of Queen’s Bench (QB). If these issues apply in your case, that will mean that you will likely want to resolve your issues in QB.

This does not mean that you must choose the Divorce Act to resolve your separation issues, because both the Divorce Act and Family Law Act can be used in Queen’s Bench. However, this combined with the other factors in your situation might help you decide which law to use.

Examples of issues that can only be handled in QB are:

  • a declaration of parentage;
  • a declaration of irreconcilability (see below for more information);
  • issues involving a surrogate mother (a surrogate mother is a woman who carries someone else’s baby and then gives the baby to the people who will be the child’s parents when it is born); and
  • property issues, including “exclusive possession” orders and the division of matrimonial property.

For more information about each of these topics, see the list of Information Pages at the end of this section.

Differences in the laws that might matter to you

Although the Family Law Act is similar to the Divorce Act, there are important differences that could affect your rights and responsibilities. Therefore, in order to make an informed choice, you will need to learn about how the laws are different and why those differences might be important in your situation. For example: child support awarded under the Family Law Act ends when the child turns 22, but child support awarded under the Divorce Act has no required end date.

For more information about each of the topics that might affect your separation, see the list of Information Pages at the end of this section.

Will you be representing yourself in court?

If you are a “self-represented litigant” (that is, you do not have a lawyer to represent you), there are a few things to think about in deciding how you wish to proceed.

Amount of help available at court

There is more help available in Provincial Court (PC) than in the Court of Queen’s Bench (QB). This help is provided by Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS). RCAS is a group of programs and services offered by the Alberta government to help people resolve their legal matters. RCAS staff:

  • help you stay out of court when possible;
  • help with the court process and forms if you go to court; and
  • offer free or low-cost programs to help families with the legal system.

A few examples of the kinds of help available from RCAS include the following.

Triage services

Triage is offered in both Provincial Court and Queen’s Bench, but only for matters under the Family Law Act, and not in all locations. In some locations it is mandatory. At triage, you will:

  • meet with RCAS staff for about 10 minutes to see what your next steps should be;
  • be referred to different services based on your needs;
  • be told what steps you can take next; and
  • schedule an intake appointment if needed (see below).

Be Aware

Triage is not available for matters under the Divorce Act.

Intake services

Intake is offered in both Provincial Court and Queen’s Bench, but only for matters under the Family Law Act, and not in all locations. In some locations it is mandatory. At intake, RCAS staff will discuss your options with you. This may include a referral to court-supported family mediation when appropriate.

Be Aware

Intake is not available for matters under the Divorce Act.

Caseflow conferencing

Caseflow conferencing is offered in both Provincial Court and Queen’s Bench, but only for matters under the Family Law Act, and not in all locations. In some locations it is mandatory. Caseflow conferencing is available to parties without a lawyer who have filed their first court application, but have not yet gone before a judge. It is meant to help parties reach an agreement out of court, or to be better prepared when going to court.

Be Aware

Caseflow conferencing are not available for matters under the Divorce Act.

Family Court Counsellors

Family Court Counsellors (FCCs) are available in both Provincial Court and Queen’s Bench, but only for matters under the Family Law Act, and not in all locations. In some locations, FCCs only help with Provincial Court matters. FCCs are available to help you learn about the court process. FCCs can also help present the facts to the judge. To get this help you will need to talk to them long before your court date!

Be Aware

Family Court Counsellors are not available for matters under the Divorce Act.

Court forms information coordinators

Information coordinators are available in certain courts to help you with court forms. You can use this service to help you find the forms that you need and get help filling them out.

To learn more about what help is provided in PC and QB in your particular area, contact your local Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

More information about the help available from RCAS is in the Information Pages listed at the end of this section.

Learning the “rules”

Many people are surprised to learn that going to court involves a lot of rules, and that not following these rules can lead to problems. When it comes to the rules of court, just because you don’t have a lawyer does not mean that you get a free pass. You must know and follow the rules. The lawyer for your spouse (if he or she has one) and the judge hearing your matter are not there to teach you the rules, and they do not have to help you figure them out.

The Court of Queen’s Bench (QB) has many more rules than the Provincial Court (PC) does. In addition, QB is much stricter about enforcing its rules than the Provincial Court. The Court of Queen’s Bench also has “Practice Notes,” which are additional rules about the court process. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For a list of the Practice Notes about family law, see the following resource.

Web Court of Queen's Bench: Practice Notes
Government of Alberta
English
Click on the "Family" tab.

For more information about being a self-represented litigant, see the Representing Yourself in Court Information Page.

Do you think you might be able to resolve your issues out of court?

Resolution and Court Administration Services provides various programs to help separating couples avoid court. Some of these programs are available in PC, some in QB, some in both.

To learn more about what help is provided in PC and QB in your particular area, contact your local Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

See the list of Information Pages at the end of this section for more information about your out-of-court options.

Cost, time, and travel requirements

When you file court documents, there is a fee that must be paid. In Queen’s Bench, the fees are usually somewhat higher.

In addition, in many parts of the province, Provincial Court is generally faster than Queen’s Bench. In other words, you can get court dates (including a trial if you need one) in Provincial Court much more quickly than in Queen’s Bench. However, in some areas of the province, it might be quicker to use QB. This might make a difference to you. Therefore, before deciding which court to use, you may wish to ask about this issue at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Also, depending on where you live, there may not be a Court of Queen’s Bench location nearby. Provincial Court has far more locations and sittings (73) than Queen’s Bench (13). Information on both can be found in the following resources.

Web Provincial Court Locations & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Do you need the help of “experts” to resolve your divorce-related issues?

When divorcing, there is often a need to hire experts (such as an accountant) to help with separation issues. Many people do not know that it is also possible to get the help of “parenting experts” to deal with things such as custody and access arrangements. It is even possible to ask a court to order that an expert be hired. However, this is only possible in Queen’s Bench. For more information, see these Information Pages:

If you think you may need one of these interventions, you may wish to deal with all other issues in Queen’s Bench as well. This does not mean that you must choose the Divorce Act to resolve your separation issues, because both the Divorce Act and Family Law Act can be used in Queen’s Bench. However, this combined with the other factors in your situation might help you decide which law to use.

Are you dealing with family violence?

The Alberta court system has various ways to protect victims of family violence. Many of these ways are only available in Queen’s Bench. For more information, see the Protective Orders Information Page.

This does not mean that you must choose the Divorce Act to resolve your separation issues, because both the Divorce Act and Family Law Act can be used in Queen’s Bench. However, this combined with the other factors in your situation might help you decide which law to use.

The law to learn about

In order to make your decision about whether to use the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act for your separation, you may want to learn about the law and processes that govern the specific legal issues you need to address.

The Divorce Act

The following Information Pages are all about dealing with your separation and divorce using the federal Divorce Act.

The following resource is all about divorce and its associated issues. It is not available online. The link below will give you an overview of the resource, and you can find the full book at libraries across Alberta. For more information about using these libraries, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

French-language information is available from the following resources.

Video Atelier juridique en français sur le divorce et la séparation
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta (via YouTube)
French

Presentation Divorce et séparation
Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta
French

The Family Law Act

The following Information Pages are all about dealing with your separation issues using the Alberta Family Law Act. The Process tabs of these Information Pages have detailed information about the differences between using the Family Law Act in Provincial Court and using the Family Law Act in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

From this point forward, this Information Page will only deal with getting an actual “divorce” under the federal Divorce Act.

Same-sex divorce and the Civil Marriage Act

In Canada, same-sex couples can marry. This means that they can also divorce. All couples who live in Canada can follow the exact same laws and procedures.

However, not all countries allow, or recognize, same sex marriage. As a result, people from other countries may travel to Canada to marry. After the marriage, they return to their home country. But, their marriage is not recognized in their own country. Therefore, they cannot get divorced in their country. Unlike couples who live in Canada, these couples cannot use the Divorce Act. This is because the Divorce Act says that spouses can only divorce in Canada if they live in Canada.

Canada has solved this problem through the Civil Marriage Act. This law applies to spouses who:

  • were married in Canada; and
  • now live somewhere where they can’t get a divorce (because that country does not recognize their Canadian marriage as a valid marriage).

The Civil Marriage Act allows these spouses to get a divorce in Canada.

Be Aware

A court can only use the Civil Marriage Act to grant a divorce. It cannot deal with spousal support, child support, or parenting arrangements for children. You will need to deal with these matters in your home country.

For detailed information about getting a divorce using the Civil Marriage Act, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

For more general information about getting a divorce using the Civil Marriage Act, see the following resources.

Web Civil Marriage Act amended to allow non-residents to divorce
JP Boyd on Family Law
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Divorce under the Civil Marriage Act
Government of Alberta
English
The laws that may apply to you

As you work through the issue of the “divorce” itself, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply. The laws included on this Information Page are:

Web Divorce Act (and associated Regulations)
Government of Canada
English

Web Civil Marriage Act
Government of Canada
English

Web Alberta Rules of Court
Government of Alberta
English

Web Alberta Evidence Act
Government of Alberta
English

Web Canada Evidence Act
Government of Canada
English

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. The links above take you to a page that lists the laws themselves as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

If you plan on representing yourself in court, you will also need to know about “case law.” In general, “case law” refers to the idea that it is up to judges hearing individual cases to decide:

  1. the exact meaning of the words in the laws (called “interpretation”), and
  2. how that meaning applies to the people in those cases (called “application”).  

This means that what happens in other cases can affect what happens in your case. It also means that there are cases decided before that govern how cases are decided now. For more information on case law, see the Our Legal System Information Page and the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

If there has been family violence

Has there been any domestic abuse in the family—whether it was toward you, the children, or both? It is very important to recognize and admit this, both to yourself and to any organizations you approach for help. Everyone involved must be kept safe. Also, family violence is often a critical factor in what happens in family law proceedings. If there was violence against the child, it could even dictate how you must proceed.

If you have been the victim of domestic violence, some things to keep in mind:

  • Be honest and upfront about it. Violence does not go away on its own. See the What is Family Violence? Information Page for more information.
  • It is never your fault. The responsibility belongs only to the abuser.
  • There is no single right way to proceed—it will depend on the exact details of your case. Sometimes, mediation and other collaborative processes may not be possible. On the other hand, sometimes going to family court may not be the best option. Learn about Family Violence and the Legal Process.
  • There are criminal laws and protective laws that might be able to help.
  • Depending on your location, there may be ways that general family law can help to keep you and your children safer, such as safe transfer and supervised access. These and other concepts are explained on the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page.
  • Abusive situations are complicated. Consider talking to a lawyer (or another person who is helping you with your legal issues) about the best way to proceed. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid and the Working with a Lawyer Information Pages for more information about your legal options.
  • Do not just believe an abuser who has told you that “You can’t leave me” or “You’ll get nothing”: it is not up to the abuser, it is a question of law. Keep reading to find out more.

If you are planning on leaving a violent situation and deciding which steps to take first, see the Safety Planning Information Page.

Many of the resources on this Information Page have both general family law information as well as how that information applies in situations of family violence. Where appropriate, resources specific to situations of domestic violence are noted with this icon:

Family Violence

 

Be sure to read these resources thoroughly, because it is sometimes difficult to understand what to do in situations of violence without understanding the legal picture in general.For more information on domestic violence in the context of family law issues, see the individual divorce topics Information Pages (listed above) as well as the Family Violence and the Legal Process Information Page.

As a last thought, remember that abusive situations are very complicated. There are both legal and social services that may be able to help you. See the Family Violence Resources to Help Information Page.

At the start: Breakup has just occurred

Sometimes, a separation can come as a bit of a surprise. Perhaps your spouse has just told you that he or she is leaving. Maybe it is you who is ready to leave. This can be scary and overwhelming. That is natural. There a few places to start.

The issue of “separation”

As you will learn below, the actual date when you first separated will be very important to the “divorce” part of your separation. In many cases, it is easy to tell when “separation” actually occurs (for example: one spouse moves out and never comes back), but this is not always the case. To see what the courts consider when deciding if a couple is truly “separated,” see the “Grounds for divorce” section below.

In Alberta, there is no specific paperwork that has to be filed to “prove” a separation. You can be “legally separated” (either temporarily or permanently) without a piece of paper. One way you can prove that you have separated is to provide evidence of the recent changes in your life, such as a change in address, bank accounts, utility bills, and Designations of Beneficiary forms.

For more information about common questions people have when separating, see the following resources.

Web Frequently Asked Questions about Separation for Married Couples
Family Law Nova Scotia
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video The Myth Of Legal Separations
Kahane Law Office (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web If I Have Been Separated for a Long Time, Am I Automatically Divorced?
Fine & Associates Professional Corporation
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Difference Between Separation and Divorce
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Get any important documents you need

Once you leave, it may be difficult to get any important documents that you may need. Take a moment to get copies of items such as:

  • your last 3 years’ tax returns,
  • financial documents,
  • your marriage certificate,
  • birth certificates,
  • health care cards, and
  • personal identification.

For more information, see the following resource.

PDF Living Together or Living Apart
Legal Services Society
Chinese, English, French, Punjabi, Spanish
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereSee p. 10.
Tip

In most cases, when you file for divorce, you will need a clear photograph of your spouse’s face in order to serve him or her with the paperwork (this is a rule of the court). Be sure you have such a photograph before you leave the home. You will also need your original marriage certificate.

 

Take steps to financially protect yourself

It is quite common for spouses to hurt one another financially after a breakup. As a result, you need to make sure that you take steps to protect your financial interests. A few examples:

  • When you separate and divorce, you will need a complete picture of your family finances. You may not be able to get that once you have left the matrimonial home. As a result, you may wish to make copies of important documents before you leave.
  • Some of your credit cards and lines of credit may be in joint names. This means that you are both responsible for the debts. As a result, in order to help ensure that you will not be responsible for your spouse’s post-separation debts, you may wish to talk to your bank about what you can do (for example: closing accounts, opening new accounts, and freezing accounts).
  • Things with your name on it are your responsibility. If you have a credit card in your name, and your spouse has a secondary card, you may wish to cancel that secondary card.

For more information about how being together affected your finances (including things like credit cards, loans, joint property, leases, and utility bills), see the Before Moving in Together Information Page and the resources listed at the end of this section.

You can agree

Although it may not seem like it right now, you can come to an agreement with your spouse. You do not have to deal with all of your divorce-related issues in front of a judge. It is possible to agree on the terms of your divorce and simply file the paperwork at court without having to appear before a judge—see the information on “desk divorces” below.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web Setting the course for a positive relationship after divorce
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web What All Divorcees Can Learn From a Couple That Spent 500K on a Child Custody Battle
Fine & Associates Professional Corporation
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Being Civil in the Face of Infidelity
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Temporary arrangements are possible

Whether you come to an agreement on your own or have to involve a court, you can start with temporary solutions. You do not have to decide about the rest of your life right now, or even in the next month. Temporary, or “interim,” arrangements can be made. For more information about going to court to get interim arrangements, see the individual Information Pages listed at the end of this section.

Slow down if you can

If at all possible, try not to make rash decisions. Taking time to think and plan can save you trouble later on. See the following resources for some things to consider.

Web Divorce and Separation
Government of Canada
English

Web Divorce et séparation
Government of Canada
French

Web Considering divorce? Take these steps to prepare
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Preparing for a divorce can make the process easier
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Getting separated or divorced
Government of Canada
English

Web Se séparer ou divorcer
Government of Canada
French

Web Are you making any of these divorce mistakes? Part 1
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Are you making any of these divorce mistakes? Part 2
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Reducing stress during the divorce process
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Counselling, It’s Not Just for Couples Anymore
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Learn

Take the time to learn about the law that applies. It is important. Consider talking to a lawyer (or legal advocate) about your options and how best to proceed. See the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid and the Working with a Lawyer Information Page for more information about your legal options.

For detailed information on all of the things to consider when family breakdown has just occurred, see the Immediate Issues for All Separating Couples Information Page.

For more information about general things to consider when leaving a marriage, see the following resources.

Audio/Web Your Rights when you Separate
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

PDF Moving On: A Practical Guide for Women Leaving a Relationship
Government of Prince Edward Island
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Aller de l’avant: Guide pratique à l’intention des femmes qui décident de mettre fin à une relation
Government of Prince Edward Island
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video How do I protect myself during separation? - Divorce Planning
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Episode 203 Web Extra: Divorce Tips with Lorne MacLean
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Episode 203- The Break Up - Family Matters TV
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video The Smart Divorce
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Family Law (Available in Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, Nepali, and Tagalog)
Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, Tagalog, Other languages
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereThis resource will automatically download: only look at this on a safe computer.

For more detailed information on financial issues in particular, see the following resources. 

PDF Divorce & Your Credit
Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, Inc.
English

Web Protecting Your Finances During a Divorce
Loans Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Think about these financial matters when divorcing
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Separation & Joint Debt
Divorce Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

For more detailed information on child-related issues in particular, see the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act and the Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Pages, as well as the following resources.


Web Children and Divorce FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

PDF What Children Need when Parents Separate
Government of Alberta
English

Web Where do I stand? A child's legal guide to separation and divorce
Government of Ontario
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Où est ma place? Guide juridique de la séparation et divorce à l'usage des enfants
Government of Ontario
French
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Help for kids
Government of Canada
English

Web De l'aide pour les enfants
Government of Canada
French

Audio/Web Separation and Divorce
Calgary Legal Guidance
English


Web Are you making any of these divorce mistakes? Part 2
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

For more detailed information on spousal support issues, see the Spousal Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

For more detailed information on property division, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you an overview of the resource, and you can find the full text at libraries across Alberta. For more information about using these libraries, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Surviving Your Divorce: A Guide to Canadian Family Law
Michael G. Cochrane
English
Get the full book from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.
If there was a domestic contract (pre-nuptial or marriage agreement)

A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract between two people who are planning on getting married in the near future. In this agreement, the parties can address many issues. For example, it can include roles and responsibilities while they live together, and what will happen if they later separate. If the parties are already married when they enter into the contract, then it is called a marriage agreement.

In general, if you and your spouse have a pre-nuptial or marriage agreement and you separate, you must follow the terms of that contract to settle the legal issues that come up. In other words, usually you must obey the contract.

However, that is not always the case. For example, the agreement may be challenged if:

  • You or your spouse provides a legal reason that the agreement should be cancelled or “set aside.” For example, if you can prove that one of you did not understand the contract because of something that was going on when the agreement was made. Or, if one of you did not provide full financial disclosure to the other.
  • One or more parts of the agreement are not enforceable. For example, you may have included an agreement that no child support would be paid. This is not allowed. It should not have been agreed to, and it will not be honoured. This is because child support is the right of the child.

Also, you would still have to deal with any legal issues that were not covered in the agreement.

For more information about how pre-nuptial or marriage agreements are treated and the law around setting them aside, see the Relationship Breakdown if You Had a Domestic Contract Information Page.

Annulment

One possible way to end a marriage is to get an “annulment.” An annulment legally changes the situation to be as if the marriage had never happened in the first place. People who practice certain religions might want an annulment instead of a divorce because their religion does not approve of divorce. Annulments are not common, as they are difficult to get.

There are two kinds of marriages that are eligible for annulments:

  1. Marriages that are void (this is also called “void ab initio”). This means the marriage was never legal in the first place and therefore never existed. For example: if a person who is already married (and not divorced) marries someone else. The second “marriage” was never a valid marriage.
  2. Marriages that are voidable. This means there is a legal flaw in the marriage, but the marriage is still recognized as a valid marriage until someone brings that flaw to the attention of a court and the court decides that the marriage was not valid after all. For example: one of the spouses was forced into the marriage and therefore did not consent to it.

Some faiths grant religious annulments. These annulments, although valid within that faith, do not legally void a marriage. Under Canadian law, you and your spouse will remain married until a judge makes a legal declaration of annulment.

Be Aware

When a marriage is annulled, the parties can no longer use the Divorce Act to deal with child-related and support issues. Similarly, they can no longer use the Matrimonial Property Act to deal with issues about the division of property. Instead, they will have to use the Alberta Family Law Act. The rights and responsibilities under that law are significantly different than those under the Divorce Act.

International annulments (where someone is asking to annul a marriage that did not take place in Canada) are particularly tricky. For more information about that see the  Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

For more information about annulments, including information about how they affect child-related and support issues, see the following resources.

Audio/Web Annulment of the Marriage
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Void & Voidable marriages
Clicklaw
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Marriage Annulment
Duhaime.org
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web About marriage in Canada
Duhaime.org
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Forced Marriage
Children's Legal & Educational Resource Centre
English
Although not all arranged marriages are forced marriages, the information about annulment applies to both.

Web Requirements for Divorce and Annulment
Canadian Bar Association - British Columbia Branch
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information about how to get an annulment, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Is Alberta the right province to grant your divorce?

Before you start your divorce process in Alberta, it is important to be sure that Alberta is the right province in which to file for divorce.

In order to start the divorce action in Alberta, at least one spouse has to have been “ordinarily resident” in Alberta for at least one year. The term “ordinarily resident” refers to where a person lives his or her day-to-day life (which is different from where they might occasionally, or even often, stay). It is where a person’s life is centred and, even if they are not always there, it is the place where a person regularly returns.

Be Aware

You do not have to be a Canadian citizen to get a divorce in Canada. You only need to meet the residency requirements.

The matter is clear if you have lived in the province, and have not left the province, in the past year. But sometimes it is not as easy to tell. For example: what if you have two homes in two different provinces, and the time you spend in each is almost equal? Or if one of the spouses moved to Alberta from another area, and a divorce action was started in another area? In these situations, the Alberta courts may not have the right to hear the matter (or they may want to hear some of the details before they decide if they can hear the matter).

If a court in any other province, territory, or country has already made an order in your case, or if a move has occurred or is planned, please see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

If it is not clear if you are “ordinarily resident” in Alberta, you will need to find out before you can file for divorce in Alberta.

For more information about who can file for divorce in Alberta, including information about the issue of “ordinary residence,” see the following resources.

Web Divorce Act FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Audio/Web Separation and Divorce
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Audio/Web The Divorce Procedure
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Divorce
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Can I Get A Divorce in Alberta?”

Video Divorce in Alberta: The Basics
Kahane Law Office (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.



Video Married in Another Country But Wanting a Divorce in Alberta?
Kahane Law Office (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
“Proving” you are separated

In Alberta, there is no specific paperwork that has to be completed or filed to “prove” a separation. You can be “legally separated” without a piece of paper. One way you can prove that you have separated is to provide evidence of the recent changes in your life, such as a change in address, bank accounts, utility bills, and Designations of Beneficiary forms.

Be Aware

You may need to prove you were separated for one year to be granted a divorce. For more information, see the “Grounds for the divorce” section below.

Sometimes, if people are separating and not getting a divorce (such as for religious reasons), they may want such a piece of paper. If you do, there are two options: 

  1. sign a Statutory Declaration, or
  2. get a Declaration of Irreconcilability from the Court.

Statutory Declaration

Your first option is to sign a “Statutory Declaration.” A Statutory Declaration is a written and sworn statement of fact. It is often used outside of courts to allow a person to declare something to be true. It is a way to satisfy some legal requirement when no other evidence is available. For information on how to do that, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Declaration of Irreconcilability

Queen's Bench

 

If the person or organization that you are dealing with refuses the Statutory Declaration and wants a piece of paper granted by a court instead, you can go to the Court of Queen’s Bench to get a “Declaration of Irreconcilability” (there used to be something similar called a “Judicial Separation,” but this no longer exists). This might come up, for example, if you are applying for social assistance or subsidized housing, and you are denied because the person taking the application doesn't believe that you are separated and will not accept any other evidence of separation.

To be clear: you do not need this document to be separated, but if you need to prove your status as separated and nothing else is working, this is an option. Before you choose this option, be sure to look at whether any of the other, easier options listed above could work for you.

If you think you need a Declaration of Irreconcilability, see Process tab of the Ending a Non-Married Romantic Relationship Information Page and contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Grounds for divorce

In Canada, getting a divorce is not a quick thing: one cannot simply decide to divorce one day and get a divorce right after that. The Divorce Act says that before a divorce can be given, the couple must meet the “grounds for divorce.” This means showing that one of the following is true in your situation:

  • that the spouses have lived “separate and apart” for at least one year (this is also called a “no fault” divorce);
  • that the defendant (the person responding to a divorce application) has committed adultery since the date of the marriage; or
  • that the defendant has treated his or her spouse with physical or mental cruelty.

Practically speaking, almost all divorces now use the one-year separation as their “grounds.” There are several reasons for this, including:

  • one year is about how long it takes to get separation issues (such as child-related and support issues) sorted out anyway;
  • the other two reasons (adultery and cruelty) actually have to be proven in the court documents, which is not always easy to do and requires more paperwork; and
  • the issue of whether someone behaved badly does not affect child-related and spousal support issues, so proving them does not provide an advantage on those issues.

For more general information about the grounds for divorce, see the following resources.

Web The Three Legal Reasons for Divorce
Éducaloi
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Grounds for Divorce FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Audio/Web The Plaintiff in a Divorce Proceeding
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Audio/Web The Divorce Procedure
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Audio/Web Separation and Divorce
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Divorce
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Web Understanding the Grounds for Divorce in Canada
Divorce Canada
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Can You Get a Divorce If Only One Partner Wants It?
Fine & Associates Professional Corporation
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Divorce 101 in Alberta
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

Audio Divorce Options
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Web What are the grounds for divorce in Alberta?
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Grounds for Divorce
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Requirements for Divorce and Annulment
Canadian Bar Association - British Columbia Branch
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Divorce Based on Adultery
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Adultery, Domestic Violence, Emotional Abuse and Leaving Your Spouse: Shame, Shame, You Want to Blame
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Living “separate and apart”

The start of the period of living “separate and apart” (the separation) is usually when one spouse tells the other that he or she wants to separate. The spouse being told about the separation does not have to “agree” to the separation.

Although separation usually means living in separate places, this does not have to be the case. You may be separated from your spouse even if you continue to live in the same house. However, when you do live in the same house, it is more difficult to prove to the court that you are separated.

If you are ever in court about this issue, the judge will look at all of the facts of the situation. The key concern is when the couple stopped “marriage-like” activities such as:

  • sharing a bedroom;
  • having sex;
  • going to family events together;
  • sharing a social life;
  • eating together;
  • providing emotional comfort;
  • doing each other’s laundry; and
  • cooking and cleaning for each other.

For more information, see the following resources.

Web How can you prove you're separated if you and your spouse still live together?
Legal Services Society
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Living Separated & Apart While Still Living in the Same Home
Kahane Law Office (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web The 16 Ways to Know You are Separated
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web If I Have Been Separated for a Long Time, Am I Automatically Divorced?
Fine & Associates Professional Corporation
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Difference Between Separation and Divorce
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information about the legal consequences of having sex with your spouse or others after separating from your spouse, see the following resource.

Web All About Separation: The 2015 Edition
JP Boyd on Family Law
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Start at “Can I still have sex with my spouse after we've separated?”

Reconciliation

Sometimes spouses separate for a while and then get back together. This is called “reconciliation.” If you and your spouse reconcile, it can affect the one-year separation period.

Specifically, if a reconciliation is longer than 90 days, the one-year separation period will have to begin again if the spouses later decide to divorce. In other words, if the spouses get back together for longer than 90 days in a row, they will have to wait another year from the date of their last separation before being granted a divorce.

Be Aware

Because society views marriage as a good thing (and something that can be worth trying to save), there is a related matter that may come as a surprise. On the divorce forms you will have to specifically state that “reconciliation” (getting back together) has been considered, but that it is not possible for you and your spouse. If you are represented by a lawyer, expect your lawyer to ask this question directly (they have a duty to ask and have to fill out a form saying that they have asked you). You may even be asked whether you have tried marriage counselling.

For more detailed information, see the following resources.

Web The Three Legal Reasons for Divorce
Éducaloi
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Reconciliation During Separation or Divorce
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Audio/Web Your Rights when you Separate
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Audio/Web The Plaintiff in a Divorce Proceeding
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Audio/Web Separation and Divorce
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Video The Basics on Separation
Kahane Law Office (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
Bars to divorce

In some situations you may not be granted a divorce. This can happen if the Court finds that the circumstances surrounding your divorce proceedings do not entitle you to a divorce. This is not common, but you should know about it.

For more information about bars to divorce, see the following resources.

Audio/Web The Plaintiff in a Divorce Proceeding
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Divorce
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Reasons Why a Justice Would Not Let You Get a Divorce.”

Web Divorce
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “Bars to Divorce."
If you can’t find your spouse

Sometimes, spouses may be separated long before they divorce. Not knowing the location of your spouse does not mean that you cannot get a divorce—it will just be a little more complicated. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Divorce
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “What if I Cannot Find My Spouse?”

Web Divorce Act FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See “I lost track of my husband.”
How separation and divorce affects your taxes

Separating from your spouse and getting a divorce will affect your taxes. It is important to know about these tax implications so that you can plan accordingly.

PDF Tax Matters Toolkit: Separation & Divorce
Canadian Bar Association
English


Web Tax Implications of Divorce for Ontario, Canada Residents
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video Can we afford to get divorced? Costs of Divorce - Separation
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

The following resource is not available online. The link below will give you a preview of the article, and you can find the full article at libraries across Alberta. Please note that this article is a section in a whole book. For more information about using the libraries listed below, see the Educating Yourself: Legal Research Information Page.

Book Tax Consequences in Family Law (article included in Family Law Boot Camp: Family Law by the Numbers)
Legal Education Society of Alberta
English
This resource can be a challenge to read. Learn more here. Get the full article from a library: Alberta Law Libraries / The Alberta Library.

There are also tax implications with the other legal issues involved in divorce. For information on those, see the individual Information Pages on each topic:

Religious and cultural considerations

When looking at religious and cultural issues, there are two main things to keep in mind:

  1. rules of faith have no effect on getting a divorce under Canadian law; and
  2. getting a divorce under Canadian law does not necessarily mean that your faith will automatically recognize the divorce—there may be additional things you need to do. This may be particularly important if you later wish to remarry in your faith.

This can present a barrier for many people. Sometimes, one spouse will purposely make it difficult for the other spouse to meet these religious requirements. For example: one spouse may refuse to provide the necessary paperwork that allows the other spouse to marry again inside the faith. This is called imposing a “barrier” to remarriage.

In such situations, section 21.1 of the Divorce Act (and some court cases that have been decided by using it) can help. Although the Divorce Act does not allow the court to force the spouse to remove the barrier directly, the party who refuses to remove the barrier can be limited in their future court actions, such as custody and property division.

For example:

  • The spouse who has imposed the barrier may not be able to apply for anything in court regarding any other divorce-related issues;
  • The court might not look at any evidence provided by the spouse who is refusing to lift the barrier; or
  • The court may award “damages” (in other words, money) to the person who is being prevented from re-marrying.

These actions are meant to pressure the spouse to lift the barrier.

For more information on religious and cultural practices when dealing with divorce, see the following resources.

Web What is a "Jewish divorce"?
Luke's Place
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Why do I need a Jewish divorce? Questions & Answers about Divorce for Jewish Women
Act to End Violence Against Women
English, French, Russian, Spanish, Other languages
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Choose your language, then see topic #11.

Audio Family Law Topics in Audio
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. Choose "Marriage and Divorce."

Video Marriage and Divorce: ASL
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
American Sign Language
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Divorce: Muslim & Canadian Family Laws
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Domestic Contracts (for Muslim Women)
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Domestic Contracts: Muslim & Canadian Family Laws
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Muslim & Canadian Family Laws: A Comparative Primer
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.


PDF Enforcing Mahr in the Canadian Courts
Ontario Bar Association
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Video The Islamic Marriage Gift
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.
Other issues: Name changes, pets, and remarriage

Changing your name

When you divorce, you may wish to change back to your former name.

Often, when a person takes his or her spouse’s last name, it is based on tradition—this is also called “assuming” your spouse's last name. It is not a formal “legal name change” unless the person applied to the government, through Vital Statistics, to legally change his or her name (which most people do not do). If you completed a legal name change, you will need to complete another legal name change.

If you did not complete a legal name change, you can go back to using the name on your birth certificate at any time. You do not need to apply to the government to do this.

However, institutions like banks sometimes want to see “evidence” of a name change. This is usually to avoid fraud—so that you cannot borrow money or get credit in more than one name. If this applies to you, and if  you have any court paperwork related to the breakdown of your relationship, you can demonstrate your name change by showing your court paperwork to the bank. To do so, you will include all of your names in the court paperwork. For example: your birth name was Mary Elizabeth Smith. You changed your name to Mary Elizabeth Jones. In your court paperwork, you could say: “Mary Elizabeth Jones, also known by her maiden name, Mary Elizabeth Smith.”

If you do not have any court paperwork, you can try to show the bank your separation agreement (if you have one), or the bank may have its own paperwork that you can use (but then that will only be usable at that bank). Or, you may be able to use a “Statutory Declaration”—for more information about that, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

For more information about changing your name, see the following resources.

Audio/Web Changing Your Name
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Change of Name
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English

Web Changing a Name | How it works
Government of Alberta
English

Pets

We often think of pets as part of the family, and in many ways they are. Legally, however, pets are considered to be property. Before starting the process of resolving your divorce-related issues, you may wish to learn more about property division under the law—see Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

Remarriage

Although it may not seem like it now, you may one day go on to marry again. For an overview on the issues and challenges that can arise in remarriage after a divorce, see the following resource.

Video Remarriage after Divorce
AdviceScene (via YouTube)
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

For more information, see the “Remarriage and blended families” section of the Getting Married Information Page.

Having a foreign divorce recognized in Canada

If you got a divorce outside of Canada, you may at some point need to have that divorce recognized in Canada. That is possible, but there are a few requirements.

For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page and the following resources.

Web About Divorce and Separation
Government of Canada
English
See “Having a foreign divorce recognized in Canada.”

Web Au sujet du divorce et de la séparation
Government of Canada
French
See “Pour faire reconnaître au Canada un divorce obtenu à l'étranger.”

Web Marriage and Divorce
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Family Law (Available in Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, Nepali, and Tagalog)
Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, Tagalog, Other languages
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. This resource will automatically download: only look at this on a safe computer.
Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

For many of the above issues, being Aboriginal does not change anything.

However, if you live on-reserve (whether or not you are Aboriginal) there can be major differences. If you live on-reserve, you will want to see the information about what special rights exist upon the breakdown of a married relationship, as well as how general separation-related rights can be affected by living on-reserve. If you have children and/or are applying to the Court for partner support, living on-reserve can affect you as well.

See the Family Breakdown if You Live on Reserve Information Page for detailed information about these topics.

Blended family considerations

The law around both married and non-married relationships is no different for blended families than it is for any other families. Your separation and divorce will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

LGBTQ considerations

In Canada, the laws around married relationships are no different for LGBTQ couples than they are for anyone else. Your separation and divorce will be guided by the same laws and approaches described above.

However, there may be some difficulties if you have transitioned, or are in the process of transitioning. Whenever you involve the law, you must identify yourself and you must always identify yourself in the same way. This can take some extra work.

For example, if you married while still using the name and/or gender assigned at birth. Now you are involving a court using a different name and/or gender than that assigned at birth. You may have additional steps to take to show that you are the same person.

This is a very complex area: consider consulting a lawyer. For more information about working with a lawyer, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Polyamorous relationships

Under the Divorce Act, it is impossible for a person to have more than one legal spouse—it is illegal to be married to more than one person at a time. Therefore, in terms of the “divorce” itself, the rights and obligations described above would only apply in the relationship between the spouses who were married to one another. Any additional person romantically involved with the two married spouses would not be part of the “divorce.”

Concerns for immigrants and other non-citizens

One or more parties in the relationship may not be citizens or permanent residents of Canada because they are:

  • in the process of immigrating;
  • conditional permanent residents;
  • on a study permit or student work visa;
  • on a work permit; or
  • hired as a temporary foreign worker.

In these situations, family breakdown may be much more complex. This is especially true if one partner is being sponsored by the other for immigration, or if the relationship involves domestic violence.

Although all of the general family law rules and processes still apply, immigration issues may play a huge role in deciding:

  • what to do when,
  • whether and when to involve a lawyer,
  • what you need to include in any agreement, and even
  • what you can ask for in court.

If any of the above applies to you, be sure to review Family Breakdown and the Immigration Process and the following resource.

Web Marriage Breakdown
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
If one or both of the spouses are involved in criminal proceedings

If one or both of the spouses is involved in criminal law issues at the time of family breakdown, the situation is much more complex. This is even more true if there is also domestic violence involved. Although all the general family law rules and processes still apply, the involvement of criminal issues may play a huge role in deciding:

  • whether and when to involve a lawyer;
  • visitation and support issues; and
  • when and how to schedule court hearings.

If you are experiencing family breakdown and one or more of you is involved in criminal proceedings, be sure to review the Family Breakdown and Criminal Law.

“Out of court” divorce options

You do not have to “go to court” to solve your divorce issues. It is possible to agree. Although court is an option, it is merely one option in a range of possibilities.

You can agree on your own or with the help of a “third party.” A third party is a person who is not directly involved with the legal issue, but is connected to it in some other way. For example, professionals who work with families to sort through legal problems.

However, you cannot get the “divorce” part of a separation without a court order. Although you can agree to everything, and simply hand in the paperwork, a judge still has to see the paperwork and the process has to be finalized through the courts. This is called a “desk divorce.” See the “Getting the divorce: Your court options” section below for more information about desk divorces.

Coming to an agreement on your own

The first out-of-court option is to come to an agreement on your own. This is sometimes called the “do-it-yourself” or the “kitchen table” option. Although this can work for many people, it does not work for all. In certain situations, such as in many cases of domestic violence, it may not be at all appropriate.

A separation agreement is a written contract between you and your spouse. It can deal with some, or all, of your separation-related issues, including:

  • the separation itself;
  • custody and parenting;
  • child support;
  • spousal support; and
  • division of property.

For more information about the things you can deal with in a separation agreement, see the following resource.

PDF Separation Agreement Checklist
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For detailed information about how to make a separation agreement, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page.

Be Aware

If your agreement includes arrangements about the division of property, you will be required to get independent legal advice (you each see your own lawyer) before your agreement will be accepted by the courts as part of your divorce paperwork.

Mediation

If you need a bit of help to resolve your issues, you can always use a mediator. In mediation, the decisions are still made by the parties. But they reach those decisions with the help of an independent and trained third party. The mediator does not take sides and does not make the decisions for you. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Arbitration

Arbitration also involves the help of an independent and trained third party. However, the third party is hired to make a decision. In other words, the arbitrator hears both sides, reviews documents and evidence, and comes up with a binding decision. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Negotiating through lawyers

“Negotiation” is a term used to describe any process where there is a “discussion” to resolve a disagreement or conflict. The goal of the discussion is to come to an agreement. This is different from simply “presenting sides” and having someone else make a decision for you. Coming to an agreement on your own and mediation are two forms of negotiation.

You can also negotiate though lawyers. In fact, many family law cases are solved in this way. The parties resolve their issues before ever getting in front of a judge by suggesting different solutions through their lawyers. Most lawyers will try to negotiate before they decide to take the case to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative Family Law is another way of working together. It has 2 key features:

  • each party hires a lawyer; and
  • the parties and the lawyers agree to resolve all matters without going to court or threatening to go to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

More information

See the following resources for a good overview of all of the above non-court options.

PDF Breaking up: Without court
Canadian Bar Association
English

PDF Se séparer sans l’aide des tribunaux
Canadian Bar Association
French

Webinar Conflict, Court, or Another Way? Different Ways of Resolving a Family Dispute
Your Legal Rights
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Family Law Education for Women
Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tamil, Urdu
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more hereChoose your language, then see topic #1.

Web Resolving disputes - think about your options
Government of Canada
English

Getting the divorce: Your court options

As you are dealing with your divorce-related issues, it is important to keep in mind that you will never get a divorce without involving the court system. In other words, even if you agree on everything, if you also want a divorce, you will still have to start a court action in Queen’s Bench. To do this, you must file a “Statement of Claim” (and you will have a few options as to the exact kind of Statement of Claim). However, remember that your divorce cannot be finalized until you have met the “grounds for divorce.” There is more information about this above and on the Process tab of this Information Page.

Be Aware

When you first file your paperwork for a divorce, the court will notify the Central Divorce Registry. The Central Divorce Registry is an office of Justice Canada that tracks all of the divorces in Canada. If you or your spouse file for divorce in two different courts, the Central Registry will let the courts know. Then you will be required to cancel one of the divorce actions.

Paying fees

When you start or respond to a court action, there is often a filing fee that must be paid. There can also be fees for additional applications related to your case. For a current list of fees and options if you can’t afford the fees, see the following resources.

Web Court fees
Government of Alberta
English

Web Beware the Beneficiary Designation!
Persona Law Group
English

PDF Court Fees & Waivers in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

The “Desk Divorce”

Just because the court system grants the divorce, that does not necessarily mean that you will have to “go to court” to get your divorce. In Alberta, it is possible to get something called a “desk divorce.” It is called a “desk divorce” because you do not have to appear in front of a judge; instead, your paperwork is simply sent up to a judge’s office and is dealt with at the judge’s desk. In addition to the “divorce” part, the desk divorce can deal with custody/access, child support, and spousal support. Division of property issues can be added in as well.

In general, there are two kinds of desk divorces:

  1. The “joint” desk divorce: this is where the separating spouses agree on all divorce-related topics (such as spousal support, child support, and custody—this is called the “corollary relief”), and the spouses file a single set of paperwork together that lays out the terms of their divorce and the corollary relief.

  2. The “uncontested” desk divorce: “uncontested” means that the other spouse never responds to the spouse who starts the divorce action.

Each of these desk divorce options is described in more detail below.

Be Aware

Even if you have filed paperwork, and even if there have been one or more court hearings about divorce-related issues, you and your spouse can come to an agreement about your issues and file paperwork that finalizes everything, including the “divorce” itself, without going to court. If you come to an agreement, you can still get the final judgment by sending the paperwork up to the judge’s desk (and sometimes this is also called a “desk” divorce).

Joint desk divorce

In a joint desk divorce, both parties are agreeing to divorce and agreeing to the child custody and access, child support, and spousal support issues (as a group, these things are also called “corollary relief”). If you choose to file a joint desk divorce, there is a single set of paperwork required. This is different from the usual paperwork used to start only the divorce action.

It is also important to note that the standard set of joint divorce paperwork does not include documents related to property division (as that is not part of the Divorce Act). For more information about how to deal with property-related issues, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

Sometimes, a couple might think they want to complete a joint divorce and then one of the spouses changes his or her mind. It is possible to stop the joint divorce process once it is has been started—the matter would then become a “contested divorce” (see below).

Remember

You can only complete the joint desk divorce process once the “grounds for divorce” have been met (usually one year’s separation).

Be Aware

Just because you are agreeing does not mean that you can agree to something that is against the law (such as trying to get out of paying any child support). In a joint divorce, part of what the judge does is make sure that the law is followed and that the agreement appears proper in the circumstances.

Uncontested desk divorce

In an uncontested desk divorce, one person asks for the divorce (and all the matters that go with it) by filing all of the required paperwork, and the other person does not answer (in other words, they don’t say “no” or make any arguments against the requests). Because the person has been given the chance to respond but has chosen not to respond, the court will consider simply granting what was requested by the person who filed the paperwork.

You might also use the uncontested divorce process if you reached an agreement after the first spouse has asked for the divorce, but before the second spouse formally responds. Then one spouse would complete all the remaining paperwork to complete the divorce, and the other would simply signs his or her agreement.

It is important to note that the standard set of contested divorce paperwork does not include documents related to property division (as that is not part of the Divorce Act), but you can include a property agreement if you want to. For more information about how to deal with property-related issues, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

Remember

You can only complete the uncontested desk divorce process once the “grounds for divorce” have been met (usually one year’s separation).

Be Aware

Just because you think your spouse might not answer does not mean that you can ask for anything you want, if it is against the law. Part of what the judge does is make sure that the law is followed and that the agreement appears proper in the circumstances.

The contested divorce

In many cases, the divorce will be contested. This means that the parties do not agree and may have to go to court to resolve one or more of their issues.

Generally, this does not mean that the “divorce” part itself is being contested—it is usually one of the other matters (custody, access, child support, spousal support, or property division) that is contested. Although it is possible to contest the “divorce” part (for example: if the one-year separation requirement has not yet been met), it is not very common and usually it is just a matter of time until a divorce is granted. Alberta courts are not in the habit of making people remain married to each other when they do not want to be.

In addition, remember that just because you start out with a “contested” divorce does not mean that you will have to “go to court” or that you can no longer come to agreement. If you can agree later, you can still file the paperwork without going to court—it will not be the “joint divorce” paperwork, it will be different paperwork, but it is still possible. If you come to such an agreement, you can still get the final judgment by sending the paperwork up to the judge’s desk (and sometimes this is also called a “desk” divorce).

“Severing” the divorce from other separation-related issues

When the divorce process is contested, it is possible to “sever” the divorce: this means that the divorce part can be separated from the other issues (such as custody, access, support, and property division). If this occurs, the spouses can still get a divorce, even though some of their other issues may not yet be resolved. This can be helpful in some ways, especially if one of the parties wishes to remarry. However, severing the divorce can also cause problems, as the parties may be less motivated to finalize the other matters.

For more information about what it means to “sever” a divorce, see the following resources.

Web Divorce Act Information
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here. See “Corollary Relief under the Divorce Act.”

Web Canadian Divorce
Ottawa Divorce
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

Web Court Refuses to Sever Couple’s Divorce from Other Still-Disputed Issues
Russell Alexander, Collaborative Family Lawyers
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

For information about how to ask a court to sever the divorce from the other issues, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

Getting the divorce judgment

At the end of the divorce process, the court will grant a “divorce judgment” (the old name for this was a “decree nisi"). It has the date of the judgment on it. When you get this judgment, you are not yet divorced. The divorce judgment has a 30-day appeal period.

Be Aware

If the parties get a divorce judgment but property has not been settled, there is a limit of 2 years from the date the divorce was granted to start a matrimonial property action.

If you need to have the divorce judgment take effect earlier, it is possible to ask. In order to have the divorce judgment take effect immediately, both spouses must give up their right to appeal the judgment. There are two requirements:

  1. the court must be satisfied that special circumstances exist; and
  2. each spouse must file an “Undertaking Not to Appeal Divorce Judgment.”

For more information about this, see the Process tab of this Information Page.

“Finalizing” the divorce: Getting a Divorce Certificate

On the 31st day following the judgment, if the divorce has not been appealed, the court can issue a “Certificate of Divorce” (this used to be called the “decree absolute”). To get your Divorce Certificate, you will need to apply to the court (there is more information on the Process tab of this Information Page).

Be Aware

You cannot remarry until after the appeal period is over and the Divorce Certificate has been issued.

In certain circumstances, it is possible to speed up the process of getting the Divorce Certificate. For example: if one of the parties is remarrying. However, in order to do so, additional paperwork must be completed (see the Process tab of this Information Page).

Updating your Will and other legal documents

When you entered into your relationship, you may have signed various kinds of legal documents giving each other legal decision-making powers or financial benefits in case of your illness or death.

Many people assume that any previous legal documents will no longer be valid when their marriage ends. This is incorrect. As a result, you will need to review, and perhaps re-do, various kinds of legal documents.

For more information, see the following resources and the rest of this section.

Web Important to update your estate plan after divorce
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
 This is a private source. Learn more here.
Web Changing your Estate Plan after separation
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
Web Should I execute a new will after separation or divorce in Alberta?
Kirk Montoute LLP
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Power of Attorney (PoA)

A Power of Attorney (PoA) is a document that gives someone else the ability to make your financial decisions for you when you can no longer make those decisions for yourself. If you signed a PoA giving decision-making power to your former spouse, you may want to sign a new one (your separation does not make the PoA invalid). For more detailed information, see the Planning for Illness Information Page.

Personal Directive (PD)

A Personal Directive (PD) is a document that gives someone else the ability to make your personal decisions for you when you can no longer make those decisions for yourself. “Personal decisions” are all non-financial decisions (including medical decisions). If you signed a PD giving decision-making power to your former spouse, you will now want to sign a new one (your separation does not make the PD invalid). For more detailed information, see the Planning for Illness Information Page.

Will

A Will is a document that says what will happen to your “estate” once you have died. Your “estate” is most (or sometimes even all) of your property, including money, that is distributed by your Will.

You may have signed a Will that:

  • gives some or all of your estate to your former spouse, and/or
  • makes your former spouse the Executor (also called a “personal representative”) of your estate.

Your separation does not necessarily make the Will invalid. So now you will probably want to sign a new one. For more detailed information, see the Planning for Death Information Page.

Designation of Beneficiary forms

When a person dies, much of what they own goes into their estate to be dealt with in their Will. But there are certain types of things that do not pass through the Will. Instead, they go directly to a specific person. This includes assets and policies that are left to someone (called the “beneficiary”) because that person is named on a “Designation of Beneficiary” form. Examples include: life insurance, pension plans, Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs).

A separation does not affect your Designation of Beneficiary forms. In other words, if you do not sign a new form after you separate, your former spouse will get the death benefit. If you separate, be sure to sign new Designation of Beneficiary forms.

For more information about Designation of Beneficiary forms, please see the following resources.

Web The Importance of Beneficiary Designations
Advisor Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Beneficiary Designations: Why, when and how?
Manulife Financial
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Web Designated beneficiaries
Government of Canada
English

Web Bénéficiaires désignés
Government of Canada
French

PDF Understanding Insurance Basics
Government of Canada
English

PDF Mieux comprendre les assurances
Government of Canada
French

Web Module 6. Insurance
Government of Canada
English

Web Module 6. Assurances
Government of Canada
French

Going to trial

Generally, the issue of the “divorce” itself does not go to trial. It is usually one of the other matters (custody, access, child support, spousal support, or property division) that may go to trial. Not all cases go to trial, but some do. Going to trial is very different than going to other kinds of court hearings. There are different rules and procedures. It is also much more time-consuming and much more expensive. For information about going to trial, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Appeals

A divorce judgment, like any order made by a court, can be appealed (unless it was one of the exceptional times that the divorce took effect immediately—see the “Getting the divorce: Your court options” section above). There is a time limit for filing an appeal. In the case of a divorce judgment, this time limit is 30 days. For more information about appealing, see the following resource.

Web Make an appeal at the Court of Queen's Bench
Government of Alberta
English

 

Process

Learn more about how to get a divorce using Canada’s Divorce Act, including:

  • Hiring a lawyer or representing yourself
  • How to file for a desk divorce, joint divorce, uncontested divorce, or contested divorce
  • The paperwork you need to file with the Court of Queen’s Bench
  • The basics about the court process and what to expect
Be Aware

The Divorce Act may not apply to you. Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: March 2017
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page contains information about the process of getting a divorce.

There are many legal issues to consider when divorcing. This Information Page deals only with the actual divorce—see the following Information Pages for more information about other issues to consider:

Tip

If you are just starting out with this topic, it’s a good idea to begin on the Law tab of this Information Page. There you will find basic information about what the law says, what the words mean, and other issues that will help you understand better what to ask for and how to get it. Once you have the basics down, you will be in a better position to learn about the process you need to follow to resolve your legal issues.

This Information Page is for spouses who are in a married relationship and who are planning on divorcing. This must be done using Canada’s Divorce Act.

If you are ex-partners who were in a non-married relationship, you are on the wrong Information Page. You must deal with all of your separation issues using Alberta’s Family Law Act. The federal Divorce Act does not apply to you. See the Ending a Non-Married Romantic Relationship Information Page instead.

If you are not sure if you were married or not, see the Getting Married Information Page.

In general, the law and process on this Information Page is for spouses who live in Alberta. If the divorce will involve courts in another province (or have already), or if either of the spouses live in another province (or have been “ordinarily resident” outside of Alberta during the past year), it may not be possible for the matter to be resolved in Alberta. For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

You are currently on the Process tab of this Information Page, which has information on how to go about getting a divorce in Alberta under the Divorce Act. For information on the law about getting the divorce, click on the Law tab above. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The topics on this page are listed in the order they are generally considered. The answers of one can affect what happens next and what choices you may need to make.

Alberta’s two-court system

As explained on the Law tab of this Information Page, people ending a married relationship in Alberta have a choice about which law they will use (the Alberta Family Law Act or the federal Divorce Act) and which court they will use. This is a very important decision, as each law and court offer different things, and there are some things you can only ask for in one of the two courts.

The information below this point is for people who are getting the “divorce” part of their separation under the Divorce Act. This must be done in the Court of Queen's Bench.

Changing your name

Often, when a person takes his or her spouse’s last name, it is based on tradition—this is also called “assuming” your spouse's last name. It is not a formal “legal name change” unless the person applied to the government (through Vital Statistics) to legally change his or her name (which most people do not do). If you completed a legal name change, you will need to complete another legal name change.

If you did not complete a legal name change, you can go back to using the name on your birth certificate at any time. You do not need to apply to the government to do this, and you do not need to wait to be divorced.

If you need to provide “evidence” of a name change, you can show your court paperwork to the bank. To do so, you will include all of your names in the court paperwork. For example: your birth name was Mary Elizabeth Smith. You changed your name to Mary Elizabeth Jones. In your court paperwork, you could say: “Mary Elizabeth Jones, also known by her maiden name, Mary Elizabeth Smith.”

If you do not have any court paperwork, you can try to show the bank your separation agreement (if you have one), or the bank may have its own paperwork that you can use (but then that will only be usable at that bank).

Or, you may be able to use a “Statutory Declaration.” A Statutory Declaration is a written and sworn statement of fact. It is often used outside of courts to allow a person to declare something to be true. It is a way to satisfy some legal requirement when no other evidence is available. It is permitted by section 18 of the Alberta Evidence Act, which provides a sample of the wording:

Web Alberta Evidence Act
Government of Alberta
English

To complete a Statutory Declaration, you swear it in front of someone who is authorized to administer oaths, such as a Commissioner for Oaths or Notary Public. You can find Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public in the yellow pages of the telephone book or online at YellowPages.ca. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public (Alberta) FAQs
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

Web What is a “Notary” and why do I need one?
Patriot Law Group
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
 
Web What is a “Commissioner for Oaths”, anyway?
Patriot Law Group
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.
“Out of court” divorce options

You do not have to “go to court” to solve your divorce issues. It is possible to agree. Although court is an option, it is merely one option in a range of possibilities.

You can agree on your own or with the help of a “third party.” A third party is a person who is not directly involved with the legal issue, but is connected to it in some other way. For example, professionals who work with families to sort through legal problems.

However, you cannot get the “divorce” part of a separation without a court order. Although you can agree to everything, and simply hand in the paperwork, a judge still has to see the paperwork and the process has to be finalized through the courts. This is called a “desk divorce.” See the “Getting the divorce: Your court options” section below for more information about desk divorces.

Coming to an agreement on your own

The first out-of-court option is to come to an agreement on your own. This is sometimes called the “do-it-yourself” or the “kitchen table” option. Although this can work for many people, it does not work for all. In certain situations, such as in many cases of domestic violence, it may not be at all appropriate.

A separation agreement is a written contract between you and your spouse. It can deal with some, or all, of your separation-related issues, including:

  • the separation itself;
  • custody and parenting;
  • child support;
  • spousal support; and
  • division of property.

For more information about the things you can deal with in a separation agreement, see the following resource.

PDF Separation Agreement Checklist
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English

For detailed information about how to make a separation agreement, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page.

Be Aware

If your agreement includes arrangements about the division of property, you will be required to get independent legal advice (you each see your own lawyer) before your agreement will be accepted by the courts as part of your divorce paperwork.

Mediation

If you need a bit of help to resolve your issues, you can always use a mediator. In mediation, the decisions are still made by the parties. But they reach those decisions with the help of an independent and trained third party. The mediator does not take sides and does not make the decisions for you. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Arbitration

Arbitration also involves the help of an independent and trained third party. However, the third party is hired to make a decision. In other words, the arbitrator hears both sides, reviews documents and evidence, and comes up with a binding decision. For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Negotiating through lawyers

“Negotiation” is a term used to describe any process where there is a “discussion” to resolve a disagreement or conflict. The goal of the discussion is to come to an agreement. This is different from simply “presenting sides” and having someone else make a decision for you. Coming to an agreement on your own and mediation are two forms of negotiation.

You can also negotiate though lawyers. In fact, many family law cases are solved in this way. The parties resolve their issues before ever getting in front of a judge by suggesting different solutions through their lawyers. Most lawyers will try to negotiate before they decide to take the case to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative Family Law is another way of working together. It has 2 key features:

  • each party hires a lawyer; and
  • the parties and the lawyers agree to resolve all matters without going to court or threatening to go to court.

For more information, see the Alternative Dispute Resolution Information Page.

Be Aware

Staff at Family Justice Services cannot help with the drafting or completion of the agreement.

Agreements resulting from out-of-court options

For any of these out-of-court options, the result will hopefully be an agreement. This means that you and your spouse would come to an agreement about how your issues will be resolved. Keep in mind that making agreements can be tricky and complex, and there are many things to consider. For more information on the process and requirements of making an agreement, as well as things to watch out for, see the Coming to an Agreement on Your Own Information Page.

Be Aware

Courthouse staff and Resolution and Court Administration Services cannot help with the drafting or completion of the agreement.

If you have an agreement on the issue of the divorce itself as well as all other matters related to it, you and your spouse can file a "desk divorce" (meaning you do not have to appear in front of a judge and the paperwork goes to the judge's desk.

The exact paperwork will depend on what has happened in your case so far:

  • If you have not started the divorce action, you can file the paperwork for a “joint desk divorce” (see the “Desk Divorce” section below).

  • If a divorce action was started by one spouse, but the other spouse has not yet filed any court paperwork to respond, you can file the paperwork for an “uncontested desk divorce” (see the “Desk Divorce” section below).

  • If a divorce action was started by one spouse and responded to by the other spouse (see the “Starting a contested divorce” section below), and even if there have been one or more hearings about divorce-related issues, you can still come to an agreement and get the final divorce judgment by sending the paperwork up to the judge’s desk (and sometimes this is also called a “desk” divorce. For information about how to do that, see the “Getting the divorce judgement” section below and the following Information Pages.
  • Custody & Access under the Divorce Act
  • Child Support under the Divorce Act
  • Spousal Support under the Divorce Act
  • Property Division for Married Spouses
Hiring a lawyer or representing yourself?

Throughout your divorce process, you can choose to either be represented by a lawyer, or to represent yourself. If you choose to represent yourself, you will be called a “self-represented litigant.”

Hiring a lawyer

If you hire a lawyer, your lawyer will explain to you what is happening with your case and why. A lawyer can help you reach an out-of-court agreement, or represent you in court.

However, even if you do have a lawyer, you may wish to continue reading this (and other Information Pages) to educate yourself further.

For more information about your options for legal representation and other legal help, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid and Working with a Lawyer.

Representing yourself

As a self-represented litigant, you can find some help at Resolution and Court Administration Services (RCAS). But there is generally less help available in the Court of Queen’s Bench than there is in the Provincial Court. You can contact RCAS to see what help they recommend.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

In some courthouses, you may have the option of speaking with “duty counsel.” Duty counsel are volunteer lawyers who will discuss your legal issue with you for free. This can include what the judge may think of your requests and the “merits of your claim.” There are no income restrictions to speak with duty counsel, but the service is limited. They are only at certain courthouses on certain days. Also, there may be many people waiting to speak with them. If you need to speak to duty counsel, make sure you get to the courthouse early. Check with your judicial centre to verify the times and days duty counsel will be available.

For information about what matters duty counsel can help with, and which judicial centres have duty counsel available, see the following resource.

Web Duty Counsel - Legal Assistance at Court
Legal Aid Alberta
English
Tip

Some legal organizations across Alberta offer “Do your own divorce” clinics to help spouses who are planning to complete desk divorces. However, be aware that these clinics usually don't help with anyproperty-related issues. For more information see Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid.

Before going to court: Get to know the court system

Before filing any documents, you will need to learn about the court process. It is not simple and there are many rules. If you represent yourself, you will need to follow the required processes and the rules.

Starting a court action

As described below, it is important to keep in mind that you will never get a divorce without involving the court system. In other words, even if you agree on everything to do with your separation-related issues, if you ultimately also want a divorce, you will still have to start a court action in Queen’s Bench.

What are “Applications”?

In addition to involving the Court to get the divorce judgment itself, you may need to make one or more “applications” in court.

“Applications” are smaller, individual parts of the court action, where one of the parties asks something of the Court. It is a court hearing used to temporarily solve some matters before coming to a final agreement, or before the case is permanently decided at a trial.

On the issue of the “divorce” itself, applications are not common. It is far more likely for there to be applications about child-related issues, support issues, and property issues. For information about those, see the Information Pages about each topic.

However, sometimes the parties may need to make applications about procedural issues. For example: if there is a problem with delivering the paperwork to one spouse (this is called “service”), or whether the divorce itself should be separated from the other divorce-related issues (this is also called “severing” the divorce).

For more information, see the “Making divorce-related Applications” or “Responding to a divorce-related Application” sections below.

Chambers

Family court matters are not like you see on television. They do not usually go straight to trial. Instead, many matters are resolved in “chambers.” Chambers is where Queen’s Bench “pre-trial” hearings take place. These hearings are in courtrooms that are open to the public, where the judge hears a list of different cases by different people. Yours is one case on the list.

In family law, there are 2 kinds of chambers:

  • regular chambers (sometimes called “morning chambers”); and
  • special chambers (sometimes called “afternoon chambers”).

Regular chambers is meant for simpler matters that can be heard in 20 minutes (10 minutes for each party to present his or her case). Special chambers is for more complex matters that need more time. For more information about chambers, see the Understanding the Court System and Process Information Page.

Be Aware

The rules for regular chambers are very different than the rules for special chambers. For example: in special chambers, the parties must send in a specific document called a “confirming letter.” Also, there are very detailed and strict rules about scheduling, paperwork, and deadlines. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource.

For more information about applications and chambers, see the Understanding the Court System Information Page.

Queen’s Bench “Practice Notes”

“Practice Notes” are additional rules issued by the Court, often about court procedures. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself in chambers. For a list of the Practice Notes about family law, see the following resource.

Web Court of Queen's Bench: Practice Notes
Government of Alberta
English
Click on the “Family” tab.

Scheduling hearings and giving notice to the other party

The sections below will explain all of the paperwork that needs to be completed for chambers hearings. You will learn that there are rules about:

  • how to schedule hearing dates; and
  • when you have to let the other party know about the application. This is called “giving notice.”

The court has these rules to make sure that everyone has enough time to prepare for court and no one is taken by surprise. This leads to fairer results.

Because of this, courts are quite strict about the rules. However, sometimes there are good reasons to not follow the rules. In such cases, you may want to ask for an “exception” to the rules. This means you are asking for permission to not follow the rules.

For example, it may be possible to:

  • get time limits shortened for giving notice to the other party (this is also called “abridging” the time); and
  • get court dates moved up to an earlier date.
Be Aware

These changes in the rules are for special situations. There must be a very good reason to request an exception. Also, if you ask for an exception, there are very specific steps that you must follow.

Also, in some cases it is possible to make an application without giving any notice to the other party. This is called making an “ex parte” application. For example, this can happen:

  • if you cannot find the other party, or
  • when your safety (or your children’s safety) may be at risk if you give the other party notice ahead of time.
Be Aware

The scheduling requirements for regular chambers are very different than the rules for special chambers, and the Court is very strict about them. These requirements are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource.

For information about whether you can ask for any of these exceptions, contact the Court of Queen’s Bench in your judicial centre, or contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Getting an annulment

Getting an annulment is not covered in either the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act. That being the case, there are no specific family law forms available, and the process of applying follows standard “civil law” procedures. Therefore, you would need to use standard civil law forms to request an annulment.

This is a very complex area of law. You may wish to contact Resolution and Court Administration Services to see if any kind of help is available in your area.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

Otherwise, consult a lawyer. For more information, see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page.

Grounds for divorce

Before a divorce can be given, the couple must meet the “grounds for divorce.” This means showing that one of the following is true in your situation:

  • that the spouses have lived “separate and apart” for at least one year (this is also called a “no fault” divorce);
  • that the defendant (the person responding to a divorce application) has committed adultery since the date of the marriage; or
  • that the defendant has treated his or her spouse with physical or mental cruelty.

One-year separation

For most separating spouses, the grounds that are noted in the divorce paperwork is the one-year separation. The date of separation has to be given in the Statement of Claim (see below).

In many cases, the spouses can agree on the date of separation. If the defendant does not agree on the separation date provided by the plaintiff, he or she will note the date he or she thinks is correct in the Statement of Defence.

If the spouses disagree on the date of separation, they will each have to provide “evidence” for their positions in their Affidavits. For more information about “when” a separation occurs, and how that can be shown, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

If the spouses were not separated before, filing the Statement of Claim can be considered as evidence of separation on that date (unless there was any reconciliation after the filing of the Statement of Claim—see the Law tab of this Information Page for information about “reconciliation”).

Be Aware

A judge will not grant a divorce if he or she thinks that the spouses have “colluded.” Collusion is when the spouses work together to lie to the court, such as if a couple agrees that they will lie about the date of separation in order to speed up the divorce. Lying to the court is never a good idea, and will result in many problems.

 

Adultery

If you are asking for a divorce because your spouse cheated on you, you can claim “adultery” as your grounds for divorce.

Only the spouse who did not commit adultery can use this ground when filing for divorce. A spouse cannot use his or her own adultery as grounds for a divorce.

To claim adultery, you will have to indicate on your Statement of Claim (see below) that that is the reason that you are asking for a divorce. If your spouse agrees that he or she committed adultery, he or she needs to acknowledge that in a special Affidavit. If that happens, you do not have to wait for a full year from the date of separation before you can be given a divorce. To get the special Affidavit regarding adultery, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Be Aware

The Court may decide to not grant the divorce if the person filing for divorce has encouraged or forgiven their spouse’s adultery.

On the other hand, if your spouse denies that he or she committed adultery, you will have to prove the adultery (also in an Affidavit, which is a public court record). As you can imagine this is not easy to do. In addition, dealing with this topic can make an already difficult situation even worse. This one of the reasons why people sometimes choose the one-year separation option instead.

Tip

Under Canadian law (both the Canada Evidence Act and the Alberta Evidence Act), a person cannot be forced to answer questions that would prove that that person committed adultery. That is why, if your spouse is not willing to admit it, it will be up to you to prove it to the judge.

People sometimes think that there might be some other benefit to using this reason for the divorce. This is not true in Canada: other than granting the divorce itself, the court will rarely consider a spouse’s adultery or cruelty. For example: the court will not take adultery or cruelty into consideration when dividing property. It will only take such behaviour into consideration when making decisions about children, and only if the behaviour affects that spouse’s ability to parent the children.

Family Violence

In cases of domestic violence, making this claim might be a good way to proceed, or it might not. It depends on your exact situation, including: whether you are now in a place of safety, what protections you have in place, and just how dangerous and volatile your spouse is. For help in deciding what is best for you to put on your documents, talk to people who have experience in this area. For contact information for people and agencies that can help, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page

 

Physical or mental cruelty

You can also ask for a divorce because your spouse was physically or mentally cruel toward you.

Cruelty only needs to happen once before a spouse may for a divorce. However, the other spouse’s cruelty must make living together intolerable. Examples of mental cruelty include:

  • a spouse consistently coming home drunk;
  • constant verbal abuse; or
  • excessive drug use.

Only the spouse complaining of the cruelty can use this ground when filing for divorce. A spouse cannot use his or her own cruelty as grounds for a divorce.

To claim cruelty, you would have to indicate on your Statement of Claim (see below) that that is the reason that you asking for a divorce. If your spouse agrees that he or she was physically or mentally cruel to you, he or she needs to acknowledge that in his or her Affidavit (see below). If that happens, you do not have to wait for a full year from the date of separation before you can be given a divorce.

On the other hand, if your spouse denies that he or she was physically or mentally cruel to you, you will have to prove it (also in an Affidavit, which is a public court record). You will also have to prove that your spouse’s behaviour toward you made it impossible for you to go on living together. As you can imagine, this is not easy to do, and mental cruelty is more difficult to prove than physical cruelty. In addition, dealing with this topic can make an already difficult situation even worse. This one of the reasons why people sometimes choose the one-year separation option instead.

People sometimes think that there might be some other benefit to using this reason for the divorce. This is not true in Canada: other than granting the divorce itself, the court will rarely consider a spouse’s adultery or cruelty. For example: the court will not take adultery or cruelty into consideration when dividing property. It will only take such behaviour into consideration when making decisions about children, and only if the behaviour affects that spouse’s ability to parent the children.

Family Violence

In cases of domestic violence, making this claim might be a good way to proceed, or it might not. It depends on your exact situation, including: whether you are now in a place of safety, what protections you have in place and just how dangerous and volatile your spouse is. For help in deciding what is best for you to put on your documents, talk to people who have experience in this area. For contact information for people and agencies that can help, see see see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

 
Before you go to court: Is this the right court to file in?

To determine this, there are several issues to consider.

Is Alberta the right province in which to go to court?

Should you be applying for your divorce in a different province? Or should you be applying for your divorce using a similar law in a different country? For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Be Aware

It may be possible to transfer divorce proceedings from one province to another. Or, it may be possible to move only some of the applications. For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

Is this the correct judicial centre?

Alberta is divided into several areas called “judicial centres” (previously called “judicial districts”). The judicial centre that you must use depends on what has happened so far in your case.

Starting or responding to an action under the Divorce Act

A person starting an action under the Divorce Act must usually file their court documents (“pleadings”) in the judicial centre where they live.

When pleadings are filed, the Court creates a “file” in the judicial centre where those pleadings were filed. Any additional documents must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located.

Starting or responding to an Application under the Divorce Act

To make an Application under the Divorce Act, there must be an “action” already started. In other words:

  • a “Statement of Claim for Divorce” or “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property” has already been filed; or
  • a “Statement of Claim for Divorce” or “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property” must be filed at the same time as the forms related to the Application.

These Statement of Claim forms are part of the “pleadings.” The “Statement of Defence” that is filed is also part of the pleadings. See the “Starting a contested divorce: The “Statement of Claim”” section below for more information about pleadings.

If a Divorce Act action is being started at the same time

A person starting to a Divorce Act action must usually file their documents and go to court in the judicial centre where they live.

As a result, if:

  • this is the first application under the Divorce Act; and
  • pleadings are filed at the same time

you will file all of the documents in the judicial centre where you live. This will start the court “file.”

If a Divorce Act action has already been started

When pleadings are filed, the Court creates a “file” in the judicial centre where those pleadings were filed.

In the Court of Queen’s Bench, there is a rule that says that once a court file is started, any additional documents must be filed in the judicial centre where the court file is located. As a result, if an action has already been started, you will likely have to file your Application documents in the judicial centre where your court file is located. Also, any hearing related to Applications will take place in the judicial centre where your court file is located.

If there are difficulties with the judicial centre

If at any point you want to change the judicial centre, you will have to make a separate application for that. You must apply in the judicial centre where your court file is located. The judge may or may not allow the transfer. To apply to change the judicial centre, use the following kit.

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

If you have questions about any of this, contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
The “Desk Divorce”

In Alberta, it is possible to get a “desk divorce.” It is called a “desk divorce” because you do not have to appear in front of a judge. Instead, your paperwork is simply sent up to a judge’s office and is dealt with at the judge’s desk. In addition to the “divorce” part, the desk divorce also deals with custody/access, child support, and spousal support. These issues are called the “corollary relief.”

Tip

Some legal organizations across Alberta offer “Do your own divorce” clinics to help spouses who are planning to complete desk divorces. However, be aware that these clinics usually don't help with any property-related issues. For more information about such clinics, see the Community Legal Resources & Legal Aid Information Page.

Just like any other court order, all parts of a “desk divorce” can be appealed (see the “Appeals” section below). When it comes to child-related issues, parents can go back to court for changes if they meet the requirements—this is called “varying” an order. For more information, see Custody & Access under the Divorce Act and Child Support under the Divorce Act.

In general, there are two kinds of desk divorces:

  1. The “joint” desk divorce: this is where the separating spouses agree on all divorce-related topics (such as spousal support, child support, and custody—this is called the “corollary relief”), and the spouses file a single set of paperwork together that lays out the terms of their divorce and the corollary relief.

  2. The “uncontested” desk divorce: “uncontested” means that the other spouse never responds to the spouse who starts the divorce action.

Each of these desk divorce options is described in more detail below.

Remember

Because the Divorce Act does not deal with matrimonial property issues, the “joint desk divorce” and the “uncontested desk divorce” paperwork does not include any documents that deal with property. For information about how to deal with property-related issues, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

Even if you have filed paperwork and there has even been one more court applications, that does not mean that you will have to “go to court”  (or continue going to court) to get your divorce and/or solve your divorce-related issues. At any point, you and your spouse can come to an agreement about your issues and file paperwork that finalizes everything, including the “divorce” itself, without going to court. If you come to an agreement, you can still get the final judgment by sending the paperwork up to the judge’s desk (and sometimes this is also called a “desk” divorce).

Joint desk divorce

In a joint desk divorce, both parties are agreeing to divorce and agreeing to the child custody and access, child support, and spousal support issues. If you choose to file a joint desk divorce, there is a single set of paperwork required. This is different from the usual Statement of Claim used to start a contested divorce action (see the “Contested divorce” section below for information about that).

It is also important to note that the standard set of joint desk divorce paperwork does not include documents related to property division (as that is not part of the Divorce Act). For more information about what is needed for that, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

Be Aware

If you have already filed one of the usual Statements of Claim (the “contested” kind—see the “Contested divorce” section below), you cannot follow the “joint divorce” process. This is because a joint divorce requires the “Joint Statement of Claim for Divorce” listed below, and you cannot have two Statements of Claim for the same court action.

Tip

Just because you are “agreeing” does not mean that you can agree to something that is against the law (such as trying to get out of paying any child support). Part of what the judge does is make sure that the law is followed and that the agreement appears proper in the circumstances.

Remember

You can only complete the joint desk divorce process once you and your spouse have lived “separate and apart” for one year. The other “grounds for divorce” (adultery or cruelty) cannot be used in a joint desk divorce. However, you can file your court paperwork for divorce at any time. It just won’t be finalized until the grounds for divorce have been met.

Exactly which forms you need will depend on whether or not there are children involved.

If there are no children

For a joint divorce when there are no children involved, you will need the forms listed below (paper versions of all forms are also available at your local Queen’s Bench courthouse).

Start with the instructions that tell you what to do with all of the other forms, in what order, and what your time limits are to complete them.

Be sure to read the instructions carefully, as there is some very important information in them. For example: you must include proof of marriage. If the marriage certificate is from out of Canada and not in English or French, it will need to be translated.

The other forms you will need are:

PDF Joint Statement of Claim for Divorce (Form FL-8 / CTS3830)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.


PDF Affidavit of Applicants (Joint) (Form FL-24 / CTS3841)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

PDF Divorce Judgment (without oral evidence)
Government of Alberta
English
Tip

If you have an agreement about the division of property, you would attach it to the Joint Affidavit (with an explanation).

To help you complete these forms, Alberta Justice has made the following videos.

Video Joint Divorce with No Dependent Children
Government of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

Sometimes a couple might think they want to complete a joint divorce and then one of the spouses changes his or her mind. It is possible to stop the joint the joint divorce process once it has started—the matter would then become a contested divorce. To do that you will need this form:

If there are children

For a joint divorce when there are children involved, you will need the forms listed below (paper versions of all forms are also available at your local Queen’s Bench courthouse).

Start with the instructions that tell you what to do with all of the other forms, in what order, and what your time limits are to complete them.

Be sure to read the instructions carefully, as there is some very important information in them. For example: you must include proof of marriage. If the marriage certificate is from out of Canada and not in English or French, it will need to be translated.

The other forms you will need are:

PDF Joint Statement of Claim for Divorce (Form FL-8 / CTS3830)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

PDF Notice of Mandatory Seminar
Government of Alberta
English

 
PDF Instructions: Child Support Data Sheets
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Affidavit of Applicants (Joint) (Form FL-24 / CTS3841)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Tip

If you have an agreement about the division of property, you would attach it to the Joint Affidavit (with an explanation).

To help you complete these forms, Alberta Justice has created the following videos.

Video Joint Divorce with Dependent Children
Government of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

Sometimes a couple might think they want to complete a joint divorce and then one of the spouses changes his or her mind. It is possible to stop the joint the joint divorce process once it is has started—the matter would then become a contested divorce. To do that you will need this form:

Uncontested desk divorce

In an uncontested desk divorce, one person asks for the divorce (and all the matters that go with it). That person files all of the required paperwork, and the other person does not answer. In other words, they don’t say “no” or make any arguments against the requests. The person has been given the chance to respond. Because they have chosen not to respond, the Court will consider simply granting what was requested by the person who filed the paperwork.

In other words, the uncontested desk divorce starts out like a contested divorce: the plaintiff files the Statement of Claim for Divorce and waits for a response (see the “Starting a contested divorce” section below). In a contested divorce, the defendant responds within the timelines and then the “contesting” (disagreements and attempts to work out the issues) begins.

In an uncontested divorce, the defendant does not respond within the timelines, and the plaintiff is then able to fill out and file the rest of the “uncontested” paperwork, including the “Noting in Default” form, which outlines how the defendant did not respond.

Be Aware

Just because you think your spouse might not answer does not mean that you can ask for anything you want, if it is against the law. Part of what the judge does is make sure that the law is followed and that the agreement appears proper in the circumstances.

Remember

You can only complete the uncontested desk divorce process once the “grounds for divorce” have been met (usually one year’s separation—see the “Grounds for divorce” section above).

When there are no children

For an uncontested divorce when there are no children involved, you will need the forms below (paper versions of all forms are also available at your local Queen’s Bench courthouse).

Be Aware

The paperwork described below does not include documents related to property division (because property division is not part of the Divorce Act). If you filed a “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property,” the information below only deals with the divorce and spousal support (if you are asking for that). For more information about what you need to know about your uncontested property claim, see the “Divorcing spouses: The Plaintiff’s response options” section on the Process tab of the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

Start with the instructions that tell you what to do with all of the other forms, in what order, and what your time limits are to complete them.

Be sure to read the instructions carefully, as there is some very important information in them. For example: you must include proof of marriage. If the marriage certificate is from out of Canada and not in English or French, it will need to be translated.

The other forms you will need are:

PDF Statement of Claim for Divorce (Form FL-1 / CTS3823)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

PDF Affidavit of Service (Form 49 / CTS3694)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

PDF Noting in Default (Form 14 / CTS3784)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.


PDF Affidavit of Applicant (Form FL-23 / CTS3840)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

PDF Divorce Judgment (Without Oral Evidence) (Form FL-25 / CTS3695)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Or you can use this print-and-fill version of the Divorce Judgment form above:

To help you complete these forms, Alberta Justice has created the following videos.

Video Regular Divorce with No Dependent Children
Government of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

When there are children

For an uncontested divorce when there are children involved, you will need the forms below (paper versions of all forms are also available at your local Queen’s Bench courthouse).

Be Aware

The paperwork described below does not include documents related to property division (because property division is not part of the Divorce Act). If you filed a “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property,” the information below only deals with the divorce and spousal support (if you are asking for that). For more information about what you need to know about your uncontested property claim, see the “Divorcing spouses: The Plaintiff’s response options” section on the Process tab of the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

Start with the instructions that tell you what to do with all of the other forms, in what order, and what your time limits are to complete them.

Be sure to read the instructions carefully, as there is some very important information in them. For example: you must include proof of marriage. If the marriage certificate is from out of Canada and not in English or French, it will need to be translated.

The other forms you will need are:

PDF Statement of Claim for Divorce (Form FL-1 / CTS3823)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

PDF Notice of Mandatory Seminar
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Affidavit of Service (CTS3882)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

PDF Noting in Default (Form 14 / CTS3784)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.


PDF Instructions: Child Support Data Sheets
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Affidavit of Applicant (Form FL-23 / CTS3840)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Or you can use this print-and-fill version of the Divorce Judgment form above:

To help you complete these forms, Alberta Justice has created the following videos.

Video Regular Divorce with Dependent Children
Government of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

A summary of the uncontested divorce can be found in the following resources.

Audio/Web Uncontested Divorces
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Web Divorce
Student Legal Services of Edmonton
English
See “Steps in a Divorce.”

Webinar Guide to Filing for Uncontested Divorce in Alberta
Calgary Chinese Community Service Association (via YouTube)
English
Starting a contested divorce: The “Statement of Claim”

In many cases, divorces will be contested. This means that the spouses may disagree about some issues, and will try to solve those disagreements.

At the beginning of the process, it is often not clear how it will all be resolved. In the early stages, separating spouses are often told to start the divorce paperwork by filing a Statement of Claim. That way, if they need to go to court for something, the action will already be started and it will save them time and effort later on.

Be Aware

Once you file a Statement of Claim, you can no longer complete the “joint divorce” process described above. Also, if your spouse formally responds to your Statement of Claim, you will no longer be able to complete the “uncontested divorce” process described above either.

However, just because you file a Statement of Claim does not mean that you will have to “go to court.” At any point, you can come to an agreement about your issues and file paperwork that finalizes everything, including the “divorce” itself, without going to court. The paperwork will be different than the paperwork listed above for a “joint divorce” or an “uncontested divorce,” but it will still be possible to not go to court. A judge will still need to look at what you have agreed to and make sure that everything has been resolved according to law, but you will not need to have the judge make decisions for you (sometimes this is also called a "desk divorce").

Remember

Your divorce cannot be finalized until you have met the grounds for divorce.

The “Pleadings”

The details that are in the Statement of Claim, as well as the details that are in the spouse’s response to the Statement of Claim (see below), are also called “the pleadings. It is important to know this term, as it may be used in court or on some paperwork.

“Pleadings” are the beginning stages of a lawsuit in which the parties formally submit their claims and defences. This is where each party gets to name all of the topics they want the court to decide about. The pleadings are like the chapters of a book—they give the outline of the book. In other words, they clearly state what issues need to be dealt with, and what questions need to be answered in order to resolve the dispute. Later, you will provide more detail for each chapter (through the evidence in your affidavits).

Tip

Be very careful when completing the pleadings to ensure that all details are correct (including the names of the parties). It is not easy to correct or change pleadings after they are filed.

Remember

Before you file a Statement of Claim for your divorce action, make certain that Alberta is the correct province to grant your divorce. For more information, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

Brief summaries of the contested divorce procedure can also be found in the following resources.

Audio/Web The Plaintiff in a Divorce Proceeding
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Audio/Web The Divorce Procedure
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Completing the Statement of Claim

Unless you are filing for a joint desk divorce, to start your divorce action in Queen’s Bench you must choose to file one of the following forms:

  • You can file a “Statement of Claim for Divorce.” With this form you are asking the court to deal with your divorce and also deal with things called “corollary relief” (which includes custody, access/parenting time, child support, and spousal support). You are not asking the court to consider the division of your property.
    PDF Statement of Claim for Divorce (Form FL-1 / CTS3823)
    Government of Alberta
    English
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  • You can file a “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property.” With this form you are asking the court to deal with your divorce, deal with things called “corollary relief” (which includes custody, access/parenting time, child support, and spousal support), and the division of your property.

The person who files the Statement of Claim is called the “Plaintiff.” It is very important that you, as the Plaintiff, include in your Statement of Claim all of the issues you want decided in court. If a topic is not included in “the pleadings,” it cannot be brought up later.

When you file a Statement of Claim, you do not have to serve it immediately (for example: if the other party is out of the country for a while), but be aware that a Statement of Claim must be served within one year of the date that it is filed, or it will expire. That said, there is the possibility to apply for one 3-month extension.

Tip

If you have to serve your spouse with the Statement of Claim outside of Alberta, you will first need to apply to the court for permission to do so. For more information, see the Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues Information Page.

If there are children involved

When there are children under 16 involved in a divorce, the court requires that the parents attend the Parenting after Separation Seminar (see the Custody & Access under the Divorce Act Information Page for more information). Except in rare circumstances, you cannot get your divorce unless you attend this seminar (either in-person or online).

This leads to two additional requirements with the pleadings:

  • When you serve your spouse with the Statement of Claim (more information about service is below), you will have to include a Notice of Mandatory Seminar.
PDF Notice of Mandatory Seminar
Government of Alberta
English
  • Once you have completed the seminar yourself, you will be given a certificate to show that you have completed the seminar. As part of your divorce action, you will need to file that certificate with the Court.

When there are children involved, you will also need the child support data sheet.

PDF Instructions: Child Support Data Sheets
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about child support, see Child Support under the Divorce Act Information Page.

Completing a Notice to Disclose

When you file your Statement of Claim, there are other sets of forms that you might want to file at the same time. The first is called a “Notice to Disclose/Application.” This is the court document that requires your spouse to provide you with detailed financial information within one month. You will need this financial information if you plan to have the Court make an order about child support or spousal support. If the information is not provided within a month, there will be a court hearing. When you file a “Notice to Disclose/Application,” you are called the “Plaintiff” and your spouse is called the the “Respondent.”

A Notice to Disclose can also be filed on its own, or along with the paperwork for an Application about one or more other issues related to your divorce action (such as custody, access, and child support).

When you file a Notice to Disclose, you are also setting up a chambers hearing date. If your former spouse has not given you the financial information by the date of that hearing, the Court can take action to get the information (either from your former spouse or his or her employer). The Court can also charge fines. On the other hand, if you get all of the information that you asked for before the hearing date, you can cancel the hearing—call the Court to do that.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Be Aware

You can also adjourn (delay) the hearing if you need to. For example, if your former spouse is self-employed, and there are many documents you need to go through to see if it is complete. To ask for an adjournment, you would also call the Court.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

As noted above, a Notice to Disclose can also be filed at the same time as the paperwork for an Application about one or more other issues (such as custody, access, and child support). If you are filing a Notice to Disclose together with the paperwork for a first Application, the two matters can be combined into one hearing -- the hearing will usually be scheduled after at least 30 days, so that your spouse has time to provide the financial information. If you receive the financial information from your spouse before the date of the combined hearing, you can simply let the judge know and the hearing will go ahead on the same date as planned but without the need to disclose financial information.

To file a Notice to Disclose, use the form below. Be sure to check off the box for every kind of information that you need. If a box is not checked off, your spouse does not need to give you that information.

PDF Notice to Disclose / Application (Form FL-17 / CTS3835)
Government of Alberta
English
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Once you have served the Notice to Disclose on your spouse, you must file an Affidavit of Service to “prove” that you served it. To do that, you will need to complete the form below. If you are asking for only financial information, indicate that. If you are filing the Notice to Disclose along with the paperwork for another Application, list all of the documents served.

When you serve a Notice to Disclose, you must give your spouse the same financial information. To do so, use the “Responding to a Notice to Disclose” form, serve it on your spouse, and then file an Affidavit of Service with the Court to prove that you gave your spouse the information. The forms you will need are below.


Tip

If you are represented by a lawyer, and if you are combining a Notice to Disclose with a Statement of Claim, the lawyer may combine the Affidavits of Service. If you are a self-represented litigant, you will use both the “Affidavit of Personal Service” and the “Affidavit of Service for Statement of Claim” (as they are different and you must make sure that you properly show everything that you served).

Examples

If you only want financial information from your spouse:
You file a Notice to Disclose on its own. You serve it on your spouse on September 30. Your spouse has until October 30 to give you his or her financial information. The hearing is scheduled for October 31.

  • You must give your spouse your financial information by October 30 as well. You serve your financial information on your spouse (usually at the same time as you serve the Notice to Disclose on your spouse). You complete the Affidavit of Service and file it with the court, also before October 30.
  • If both sets of financial information are exchanged by October 30, you call the Court to cancel the hearing.
  • If both sets of financial information are not exchanged by October 30, you go to the hearing on October 31.

If you want financial information AND other issues dealt with in court (see information about Applications below):

You file a Notice to Disclose together with an Application for any other issues you want dealt with in court (such as custody, access, child support, or spousal support). You serve all of the paperwork on your spouse on September 30. Your spouse has until October 30 to give you their financial information. The combination hearing is scheduled for October 31.

  • You must give your spouse your financial information by October 30 as well. You serve your financial information on your spouse (usually at the same time as you serve the Notice to Disclose on your spouse). You complete the Affidavit of Service and file it with the court, also before October 30.
  • If both sets of financial information are exchanged by October 30, you can let the judge know that that the “financial disclosure” part of the hearing is no longer needed, but the other matters in your application will go ahead.
  • If both sets of financial information are not exchanged by October 30, you go to the hearing on October 31, prepared to talk about all of the issues, including financial disclosure.

Completing the paperwork for an Application

At the same time that you file your Statement of Claim, you might want to complete the paperwork for a first Application related to your divorce (for example, if you want a court hearing to ask the Court to make an order for custody and access/parenting time). This court hearing can occur on its own or it can be combined with the court hearing about a Notice to Disclose (see above).

An “Application” is used by divorcing spouses to temporarily solve their divorce-related matters before coming to a final agreement, or before their case is permanently decided at a trial.

If you or your spouse disagree about any of the divorce-related topics, you will need to file one or more Applications to have the Court hear the issues and decide for you. Applications can only be used for topics brought up in your pleadings. If a topic was not included in the pleadings, it cannot be brought up in an Application.

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. If you want to ask for an exception to these rules, you will need ask permission of the court. There is a very specific procedure for doing that. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen’s Bench Chambers Clerk.


Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

For information about the documents required for the first Application, see the Information Pages about each topic.

Family Violence

If you want to make an application for some kind of protective order at the same time, see the Protective Orders Information Page for your options.

Remember

Just because you have started the court process does not mean that you will now have to resolve everything through court. At any time, you can still come to an agreement and complete your divorce paperwork by agreement. See the “Getting the Divorce Judgment” section below.

Getting the paperwork checked over

Before you finalize all of your paperwork by “swearing” it (next step), you might want to have it checked over. This is to make sure that you have completed your paperwork in the way that the Court rules and directions require. This “check” is a very helpful step. If there is an error, your paperwork may be rejected and you might have to start all over again. It is much easier to have your paperwork checked before you complete the next steps. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

Once your paperwork is filled out and checked over, you will need to complete it by properly “swearing” it. “Swearing” a document means that you are promising that everything in the document is true (as far as you know). Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
    

For more information about what’s involved with this step, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Filing” the paperwork

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and multiple copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you and one is for any other parties. You file the documents at the Court of Queen’s Bench in the correct judicial centre.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

If you are also filing a Notice to Disclose or an Application when you file your documents, a court clerk will help you pick a court date. When choosing a date, you will need to factor in the time that you will need to “serve” your spouse with the paperwork (next step), and you will need to give your spouse enough time to respond to everything.

Depending on your location and the amount of time your matter is application to take, you may have to appear in court in regular chambers (also called “morning” chambers) or in special chambers (also called “afternoon” chambers). The court clerk will help you figure out what time you are to appear. Regular chambers is for matters where each party can present their side in 10 minutes or less (for a total of 20 minutes). Special chambers is for matters that require more than 20 minutes in total.

Be Aware

The rules for regular chambers are very different than the rules for special chambers. For example: in special chambers, the parties must send in a specific document called a “confirming letter,” and there are very detailed and strict rules about scheduling, paperwork, and deadlines. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource.

Tip

The rules about how much time the other spouse has to “respond” are different depending on the paperwork. In other words, the Statement of Claim, Notice to Disclose, and Applications all have different timelines for responding. This can can get very confusing for everyone involved. If possible, you can consider having the first court hearing take place after the longest deadline has passed. Sometimes, however, this is not possible, as an urgent matter needs to be decided quickly. This can be arranged. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

After you have been given a court date, write down the court date on the first page of all of the copies of your application. The clerk will stamp and keep the original copies of all of your documents and will return the stamped copies to you. All documents must have a court stamp on them. These copies are what you will need for the next step.

“Serving” the paperwork

Once all of your paperwork is in order and properly signed, you will need to “serve” it on the other spouse. “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. This is to notify the other party that a hearing is taking place. This means you have to make sure that he or she gets the notice as soon as possible.

In a divorce action, in order to serve a Statement of Claim, a picture of the defendant must be attached to the Affidavit of Service. In a divorce action, in order to serve a Statement of Claim, a picture of the defendant must be attached to the Affidavit of Service. Also, a Statement of Claim for Divorce cannot be served by the plaintiff (this is part of the Rules of the Court of Queen’s Bench). Instead, you will have to get a third party or hire a “process server” to do it for you. You can find a process server by searching www.canada411.ca, or by looking in the yellow pages.

Remember

When you file a Statement of Claim, you do not have to serve it immediately (for example: if the other party is out of the country for a while), but be aware that a Statement of Claim must be served within one year of the date that it is filed, or it will expire. That said, there is the possibility to apply for one 3-month extension.

For more information on how to serve documents, including in situations where service is quite complicated (such as when you can’t find your spouse), see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Tip

If your spouse is outside of Canada and you have to serve him or her with the Statement of Claim outside of Canada, you will first need to apply to the court for permission to do so. For more information, see Family Breakdown and Out-of-Province Issues.

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

It is not enough for you to just serve the other party. You must also prove that you served the other party. To do so, the person who served the paperwork must swear an Affidavit of Service. This form must be completed by the person who completed the service, and filed before the court date. To prove that the Statement of Claim for Divorce was served, you will need the following form.

PDF Affidavit of Service (Form 49 / CTS3694)
Government of Alberta
English
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Tip

If you are represented by a lawyer, and if you are combining a Statement of Claim with a Notice to Disclose, the lawyer may combine the Affidavits of Service. If you are a self-represented litigant, you will use both the “Affidavit of Personal Service” and the “Affidavit of Service for Statement of Claim” (as they are different and you must make sure that you properly show everything that you served).

Get ready for the response

Sometime before the end of the response time, your spouse will be serving you with his or her response. When this paperwork comes in, you will need to read it (especially if you have a court hearing booked). Depending on what it says, you may also need to respond.

Tip

If you do not get a response, you may be able to continue this process by completing the paperwork for an uncontested divorce (see the “Desk Divorce” section above).

For information about responding to a Statement of Defence and a Counterclaim, review the next two sections of this Information Page: “Responding to the Statement of Claim” and “Responding to a Statement of Defence.”

For information about responses to Applications, see the Information Pages about each topic.

Be Aware

If, in response to your Statement of Claim, your spouse files a “Counterclaim,” you will also need to file a “Statement of Defence to Counterclaim” (more information below). You have limited time to do this. If you do not file within the time limits, the pleadings will be considered closed (and you will no longer be allowed to file your Statement of Defence to Counterclaim).

Defendant: Responding to the Plaintiff’s “Statement of Claim”

If you have been served with a “Statement of Claim for Divorce” or a “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property,” you can now respond. The person who filed the Statement of Claim is called the “Plaintiff”; you are called the “Defendant”.

The details that are in the Statement of Claim, as well as the details that are in the spouse’s response to the Statement of Claim, are also called “the pleadings. It is important to know this term, as it may be used in court or on some paperwork.

Tip

Be very careful when completing the pleadings to ensure that all details are correct (including the names of the parties). It is not easy to correct or change pleadings after the fact.

Read the Statement of Claim very carefully so that you understand what your spouse is asking for. The grounds for divorce are listed near the beginning. If you believe they are not true, you can contest them (which means to formally disagree), see below. The “remedies” or “relief” that your spouse is asking for are listed throughout, divided by topic. If you disagree with any of these, you can contest them (see below).

Brief summaries of the contested divorce procedure can be found in the following resources.

Audio/Web The Divorce Procedure
Calgary Legal Guidance
English

Audio/Web The Defendant in a Divorce Proceeding
Calgary Legal Guidance
English
 

Time to respond

You have a limited amount of time to respond to these documents, depending on your location at the time of service:

  • 20 days if you are served within Alberta;
  • 1 month if you are served outside of Alberta, but still in Canada;
  • 2 months if you are served outside of Canada.

If you do not respond within these time limits, your spouse may be able to continue with an “uncontested desk divorce,” and they can get what they have requested. You will not have your side heard, and you will not be able to make your own requests regarding custody, access, and parenting time. Also, unless you respond with a “Demand of Notice” form, you will not even be told of any further court proceedings.

You can ask the Court to extend these timelines if you apply to the court before the time expires. To ask for an extension, you must file an application to the court. To do so, you will need the form below.

For general information about everything you need to do when filing paperwork to respond to an application, see the following resource.

For more detailed information on how to respond to applications, see the Information Pages about each topic.

Your response options

You have several choices when you are served with a Statement of Claim. You can:

  • Do nothing (which may lead to an uncontested desk divorce—see the “Desk Divorce” section above). If you choose this option, you will get a copy of the Divorce Judgment in the mail when it is done;
  • File a “Demand for Notice” (which will keep you informed about any court proceedings); If you file a Demand for Notice, you can also expect to be contacted to sign further documents so that the divorce can be finished.
PDF Demand for Notice by Defendant(s) (Form 13 / CTS3783)
Government of Alberta
English
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  • File a “Statement of Defence.” In a Statement of Defence you are simply saying that you disagree, but you are not asking for anything specific of your own (for that you need one of the Counterclaim documents, below);
PDF Statement of Defence (Form FL-4 / CTS3826)
Government of Alberta
English
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  • File a “Statement of Defence” and “Counterclaim for Divorce.” In this Counterclaim, you are not only disagreeing with what your spouse has asked for in terms of corollary relief, but you are asking for very specific things of your own.
PDF Statement of Defence (Form FL-4 / CTS3826)
Government of Alberta
English
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PDF Counterclaim for Divorce (Form FL-5 / CTS3827)
Government of Alberta
English
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  • File a “Statement of Defence” and “Counterclaim for Division of Matrimonial Property.” In this Counterclaim, you are not only disagreeing with what your spouse has asked for in terms of corollary relief, but you are asking for very specific things of your own in terms of property division.
PDF Statement of Defence (Form FL-4 / CTS3826)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

  • File a “Statement of Defence” and “Counterclaim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property.” In this Counterclaim, you are not only disagreeing with what your spouse has asked for in terms of corollary relief and property division, but you are asking for very specific things of your own in terms of corollary relief and property division.
PDF Statement of Defence (Form FL-4 / CTS3826)
Government of Alberta
English
This link only opens in Internet Explorer. Learn how you can view this form in Chrome and Firefox.

Tip

If you complete any kind of Statement of Defence, it is very important to include all of the issues you want decided in court. If a topic is not included in the pleadings, it cannot be brought up in an Application.

If you were also served with a Notice to Disclose

When you were served with the Statement of Claim you may also have been served with a Notice to Disclose/Application. This is the court document that requires you to give your spouse detailed financial information within one month. This information is needed if the Court is going to make an Order about child support or spousal support.

A Notice to Disclose can be filed on its own, or along with the paperwork for an Application about one or more other issues (such as custody, access, and child support).

When a Notice to Disclose is filed, there is a hearing date included. This can be a hearing to just deal with financial disclosure (if a Notice to Disclose was filed on its own), or it can be a “combination hearing” that includes other matters (such as custody, access, and child support). If you were served with a Notice to Disclose along with other paperwork, you probably have a combination hearing. You should carefully read your documents so that you know about your deadlines and the hearing date(s).

If you were served with a Notice to Disclose, you must give your financial information to your spouse within one month. If you do not, on the hearing date the Court may make an order to get the information from you or your employer, and they may charge you fines. If you provide your financial information to your spouse within one month, the hearing:

  • may be cancelled (if it was a hearing only about financial disclosure), or
  • may go ahead with the other matters, but the issue of financial disclosure will be removed from the list of things that need to be heard.

To respond to a Notice to Disclose, use this package of forms. Instructions are included on the form.

Once you have served the Responding to a Notice to Disclose on your spouse, you must file an Affidavit of Service to “prove” that you served it. To do that, you will need to complete the form below. If your spouse asked you for only financial information, and that is all that you are providing, indicate that. If you are responding to the Notice to Disclose along with a request for another Application, list all of the documents served.

Be Aware

Your spouse will now have to provide you with his or her financial information before the court hearing as well.

Examples

If your spouse only asked for financial information:
Your spouse filed a Notice to Disclose on its own. He or she served it on you on September 30. You have until October 30 to give your spouse your financial information. The hearing is scheduled for October 31.

  • You must give your spouse your financial information by October 30. You complete the Affidavit of Service and file it with the court, also before October 30.
  • Your spouse must also give you his or her financial information by October 30 (this may have been done at the time you were served with the Notice to Disclose).
  • If both sets of financial information are exchanged by October 30, the hearing may be cancelled by your spouse (to do this, he or she must call the Court).
  • If both sets of financial information are not exchanged by October 30, you go to the hearing on October 31.

If your spouse asked for financial information AND wants other issues dealt with in court:
Your spouse filed a Notice to Disclose together with an Application for other issues he or she wants to deal with in court (such as custody, access, child support, or spousal support). He or she served all of the paperwork on you on September 30. You have until October 30 to provide your spouse with your financial information. The “combination hearing” is scheduled for October 31.

  • You must give your spouse your financial information by October 30. You serve your financial information along with all the other paperwork on your spouse. You complete the Affidavit of Service and file it with the court, also before October 30.
  • Your spouse must also give you his or her financial information by October 30 (this may have been done at the time you were served with the Notice to Disclose).
  • If both sets of financial information are exchanged by October 30, you will both still go to the hearing to discuss the other issues.
  • If both sets of financial information are not exchanged by October 30, you go to the hearing on October 31, prepared to talk about all of the issues, including financial disclosure.
Be Aware

The possible penalties for not providing financial information within the month given in the Notice to Disclose can be quite large: sometimes hundreds of dollars per day, each day that you are late. If the court considers these penalties unpaid support (which it can do if asked to do so by one of the parties), these sums can be enforced by the Maintenance Enforcement Program (which can lead to further actions being taken against the person who does not disclose the financial information).

If you were also served with documents for an Application

When you were served with the Statement of Claim, you may also have been served with a Notice of an Application (also called a “Family Application”). This is a court document that your spouse uses to ask for a court hearing about another matter related to your divorce (for example: custody and access/parenting time). This court hearing can occur on its own or it can be combined with the court hearing about a Notice to Disclose (see above).

You will need to pay special attention to the scheduled court date, because it may be taking place before you have even had the chance to complete your Statement of Defence. Read the documents carefully and be sure you know what is expected of you.

For more information about how to respond to documents for the first Application, see the Information Pages about each topic.

Family Violence

If you want to apply for a protective order, see the Protective Orders Information Page.

Getting the paperwork checked over

Before you finalize all of your paperwork by “swearing” it (next step), you might want to have it checked over. This is to make sure that you have completed your paperwork in the way that the Court rules and directions require. This “check” is a very helpful step. If there is an error, your paperwork may be rejected and you might have to start all over again. It is much easier to have your paperwork checked before you complete the next steps. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

Once your paperwork is filled out and checked over, you will need to complete it by properly “swearing” it. “Swearing” a document means that you are promising that everything in the document is true (as far as you know). Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about what’s involved with this step, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Filing” the paperwork

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and multiple copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you and one is for any other parties. You file the documents at the Court of Queen’s Bench in the correct judicial centre.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

The clerk will keep the original and stamp your copies. All documents must have a court stamp on them. These copies are what you will need for the next step.

“Serving” the paperwork

Once all of your paperwork is in order and properly signed, you will need to “serve” it on your spouse. “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. This is to notify him or her that a hearing is taking place. This means you have to make sure that he or she gets the notice as soon as possible. This is also a very important step. If the Plaintiff has a lawyer, you can bring or send the copy to the lawyer's address.

For more information on how to serve documents, including in situations where service is quite complicated (such as when you can’t find your spouse), see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Remember

The Plaintiff must receive one copy of each form that you filed, before your time limit is up.

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

It is not enough for you to just serve the other party. You must also prove that you served the other party. To do so, the person who served the paperwork must swear an Affidavit of Service. This form must be completed by the person who completed the service, and filed before the court date. You will also need to bring a copy of this form with you to court.

Get ready for the response

If you filed a Counterclaim, your spouse will now be able to respond with his or her own “Statement of Defence to Counterclaim.” He or she will have the same amount of time to do so as you did to file your Statement of Defence.

Plaintiff: Responding to the Defendant’s “Statement of Defence”

Completing a Statement of Defence to Counterclaim

If, in response to your Statement of Claim, your spouse files a “Counterclaim” (see above), you will also need to file a “Statement of Defence” to the Counterclaim—this now makes you the “Defendant by Counterclaim” in addition to being the “Plaintiff.”

You have limited time to do this. If you do not file within the time limits, the pleadings will be considered closed (and you will no longer be allowed to file your Statement of Defence to Counterclaim).

To file a Statement of Defence to Counterclaim, you must use the Statement of Defence form, but you will need to check off the box that says that you are the “Defendant by Counterclaim” (even though you are the Plaintiff in the Claim), and fill it out very carefully so that it is clear that this is a response to a counterclaim. This can get quite confusing, so it is important to keep your paperwork well-organized.

PDF Statement of Defence (Form FL-4 / CTS3826)
Government of Alberta
English
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When this form is complete, you may want to get it checked over by the court clerks. Then, you will need to “swear” the form, file it with the Court of Queen’s Bench, and serve it on your spouse, just as you did with your Statement of Claim (see the “Starting a contested divorce” section above).

If the Defendant applied to have response deadlines extended

Your spouse may have applied to the court to have more time to respond to your Statement of Claim. This request is just like any other court “application.” To respond to it, you will need this form:

For general information about everything you need to do when filing paperwork for an application, see the following resource. This kit is intended for Applicants, but much of the general information about completing your paperwork and preparing for court also apply to the Respondent.

For more detailed information, see the Information Pages about each topic.

Closing the pleadings

“Pleadings” are the beginning stages of a lawsuit in which the parties formally submit their claims and defences. This is where each party gets to name all of the topics they want the court to decide about. The pleadings are like the chapters of a book—they give the outline of the book. In other words, they clearly state what issues need to be dealt with in order to resolve the dispute.

At some point, pleadings need to “close.” This is so that each side can be certain that they know everything that will be dealt with in court, and the court can then move forward with trying to decide the issues. In order to be fair to both parties, the court must know all of the issues that are in dispute. The issues, and the resulting decisions, will always be based on what the parties asked for in the pleadings. Also, if pleadings did not “close,” matters might never get resolved in a timely manner. To continue with the book analogy: the judge cannot help write the book if the outline of the story is always changing, and the book would never end if chapters continued to be added.

After the above documents (Statement of Claim, Statement of Defence, Statement of Counterclaim, and Statement of Defence to Counterclaim) have all been filed, the pleadings are considered “closed.” The parties generally cannot add more issues, nor can they try to deal with any new issues in court hearings. Even if the above documents are not all filed, the pleadings can still close. Each of these documents has time limits in which they must be filed. Once all of the time limits (and any extensions that may have been given) have passed, the pleadings will be considered closed.

There is nothing in particular that you have to do to close pleadings: there is no separate form to sign, and court staff does not check or send reminders. Therefore, properly filing the pleadings and making sure that they have all of the correct information should be carefully tracked by the parties.

Be Aware

You cannot book a trial until the pleadings have closed.

Changing pleadings

It is possible to change (“amend”) pleadings.

Before the pleadings close, pleadings can be corrected or changed by simply re-filing all of the documents. This includes serving these new documents (except now with a shorter 10-day time limit) and filing a new Affidavit of Service.

After the pleadings close, you cannot correct or change pleadings without either getting the consent of the other party, or first asking the permission of the Court.

If the other party agrees, pleadings can be changed by simply completing all of the documents again and the other party signing his or her consent. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

If you ask the permission of the Court, the Court does not have to give permission to change the pleadings—and it will not if the proposed change would give an advantage to one party that could not be fixed by making an order for costs (see the “Asking for costs” section below). Even if the Court does agree, the Court may also impose a time limit for making changes.

To ask for the Court’s permission to amend the pleadings, you will have to make an application to the Court. You will need the following form.

To respond to a request to the Court to amend the pleadings, you will need this form:

For general information about everything you need to do when filing paperwork for an application, see the following resource.This kit is intended for Applicants, but much of the general information about completing your paperwork and preparing for court also apply to the Respondent.

Be Aware

If your spouse has been allowed to change his or her pleadings, you can then make changes in your pleadings to respond to those changes without asking the Court for permission.

For more detailed information, see the Information Pages about each topic.

Making divorce-related Applications

On the issue of the “divorce” itself, applications are not common. It is far more likely for there to be applications about child-related issues, support issues, and property issues. For information about those, see the Information Pages about each topic.

However, sometimes the parties may need to make applications about procedural issues. For example: if there is a problem with service, or to extend a deadline. Also, the question of whether the divorce itself should be separated from of the other divorce-related issues (this is also called “severing” the divorce) and even the initial decision to give the divorce can all be ruled upon in applications.

The information in this section is for the spouse who fills out the “Application” paperwork to ask for something. This person is called the “Applicant.” The other spouse will have different paperwork to fill out (see the “Responding to a divorce-related Application” section below).

All of the links below take you to an electronic version of the forms (where available). You can also get paper copies of all of these forms at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

Just because you have started the application process does not mean that you will now have to resolve everything through court. At any time, you can still come to an agreement and turn that agreement into a Consent Order. For more information about how to do this, see the “Consent orders” section below.

Is/was there domestic violence?

If there is/was domestic violence in your family, you can bring it up in your court documents. This can be particularly important if the violence is the reason you are making certain requests.

For information about how the presence of domestic violence can affect your paperwork, see the following resource.

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

For more information, see Family Violence and the Legal Process.

If you want to apply for a protective order to help keep you safe, see the Protective Orders Information Page. The choices you make about protective orders may affect the process you need to follow with your other family law matters.

Filing the Application at the same time as the Statement of Claim

When you file your first Application, you may also be filing the Statement of Claim that starts the divorce and/or matrimonial property action. If that is the case, pay close attention to the date chosen for the court hearing to make sure your spouse will have enough time to:

  1. respond to your Application documents, and
  2. complete a Statement of Defence.

For more information about that, see the “Defendant: Responding to the Plaintiff’s Statement of Claim” section above.

Filing the Application at the same time as a “Notice to Disclose / Application”

When you are filing your Application, you may also be filing a “Notice to Disclose” at the same time. For more information about that, see the “Starting a contested divorce” section above.

Completing the Application form

To make an application, you will need the following kit.

This kit includes an affidavit. An affidavit is where you include the facts that the Court will need to see. If there are any documents that you want the judge to see, you must write about them in the Affidavit, and attach the documents to your paperwork.

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. If you want to ask for an exception to these rules, you will need ask permission of the court. There is a very specific procedure for doing that. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen’s Bench Chambers Clerk.


Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Getting the paperwork checked over

Before you finalize all of your paperwork by “swearing” it (next step), you might want to have it checked over. This is to make sure that you have completed your paperwork in the way that the Court rules and directions require. This “check” is a very helpful step. If there is an error, your paperwork may be rejected and you might have to start all over again. It is much easier to have your paperwork checked before you complete the next steps. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

Once your paperwork is filled out and checked over, you will need to complete it by properly “swearing” it. “Swearing” a document means that you are promising that everything in the document is true (as far as you know). This can be done at your local Family Justice Services office.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about what’s involved with this step, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Filing” the paperwork and choosing a court date

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and multiple copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you and one is for any other parties. You file the documents at the Court of Queen’s Bench in the correct judicial centre.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

At the courthouse, and with the help of a court clerk, you will be able to pick a court date. When choosing a date, you will need to factor in the time that you will need to “serve” the other party with the paperwork (next step). You will also need to give the other party enough time to respond to your application.

Your matter will be scheduled in “chambers.” This is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different matters by different people. Yours is just one case on the list.

Depending on your location and the amount of time your matter is expected to take, you may have to appear in regular chambers (also called “morning” chambers) or in special chambers (also called “afternoon” chambers).

  • Regular chambers is for matters where each party can present their side in 10 minutes or less (for a total of 20 minutes).
  • Special chambers is for matters that require more than 20 minutes in total.

The court clerk will help you figure out what time you are to appear.

Be Aware

The rules for regular chambers are very different than the rules for special chambers. For example: in special chambers, the parties must send in a specific document called a “confirming letter.” Also, there are very detailed and strict rules about scheduling, paperwork, and deadlines. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource.

After you have been given a court date, write down the court date on the first page of all of the copies of your application. The clerk will stamp and keep the original copies of all of your documents and will return the stamped copies to you. All documents must have a court stamp on them. These copies are what you will need for the next step.

“Serving” the paperwork

Once all of your paperwork is in order and properly signed and filed, you will need to “serve” it on the other party. “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. This is to notify the other party that a hearing is taking place. This means you have to make sure that he or she gets the notice as soon as possible. This is also a very important step, because if the paperwork is not properly served, the judge might not hear your matter. For more information on how to serve documents, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

However, there are certain very limited situations in which the other party does not need to be notified of the hearing. This is called an “ex parte” hearing. For more information on these situations, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

It is not enough for you to just serve the other party. You must also prove that you served the other party. To do so, the person who served the paperwork must swear an Affidavit of Service. This form must be completed by the person who completed the service, and filed before the court date. You will also need to bring a copy of this form with you to court.

Get ready for the response

Before the court date, your spouse will be serving you with his or her response. You will need to read his or her paperwork to make sure that you are ready for your court date.

There are 2 ways your spouse can respond.

  1. They can file an Affidavit in response to your Application. In their Affidavit, your spouse can state whether they agree or disagree with what you asked for. However, in an Affidavit, they are not allowed to ask for anything of their own. (For more information about the rules around Affidavits, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page). If this is how your spouse responded to your Application, see the next section for options about how you can respond to this Affidavit.
  2. They can file an Affidavit in response to your application, and they can file an “Application” to ask for something of their own. This is called a “cross-application.” This starts another Application, and an entirely new round of responses. If this is how your spouse responded to your Application, see the next section for options about how you can respond to this Affidavit and Cross-application.

Do you need to respond to your spouse’s Response?

If your spouse responded with only an Affidavit

If your spouse only filed an Affidavit, you may be able to file a Supplemental Affidavit. You can only use a Supplemental Affidavit to change some factual information. This could be either something that has changed since you filed your first Affidavit, or to respond to some updated factual information provided by your spouse. In your Supplemental Affidavit, you should explain how the information is new and why it was not available when you first completed your forms. You cannot use Supplemental Affidavits to repeat the same facts or to make arguments. For more information about the rules around Affidavits, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of affidavits you are allowed in chambers. You will likely have to ask for the Court’s permission before filing a Supplemental Affidavit. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.


Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

If you were given a court hearing in regular chambers (sometimes called “morning chambers”), there may not be enough time to file a Supplemental Affidavit. For that reason, Supplemental Affidavits are less common in morning chambers. Supplemental Affidavits are more common in special chambers (sometimes called “afternoon chambers”). No matter which kind of chambers hearing you have, if you really need to file a Supplemental Affidavit, you may need to ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date). For information about how to do that, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.

The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

You will need to file and serve this Supplemental Affidavit as well, so give yourself enough time. Be aware of the general rule that all documents must be filed with the Court within a “reasonable time” before the date of the court hearing. Exact timelines can vary by judicial centre. Although a judge may allow an exception to this rule, he or she is not required to do so. Also, you risk that your matter will be adjourned (delayed until a later date) because you did not give your spouse enough time to review your documents.

If your spouse responded with an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

If your spouse responded with both an Affidavit and an Application of their own, you now become:

  • the Applicant in your own Application; and
  • the Respondent in your spouse’s Application.

When there are cross-applications, it gets very confusing as to which documents go with which Applications, and whose turn it is to do what. You can do the following things to make it easier:

  • keep all of the paperwork together;
  • keep things well organized (for example: in a binder);
  • mark deadlines and court hearings on a calendar; and
  • maybe even draw a little chart for yourself.

As a result, it is now your turn to file a “response” to the new application (see the “Responding to divore-related Applications” section below). Your spouse will then be able to file the Supplemental Affidavit to your response, if he or she wants to (as described above).

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about cross-applications. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.


Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Questioning on Affidavit

Before a chambers hearing, it is possible for either party to formally “question” the other party about some of the facts set out in that party’s paperwork. This is called “Questioning on Affidavit.” It is not that common in general, but it is more common for special chambers than for regular chambers. For more information about Questioning on Affidavit, including why either you or your former partner would do it and what exactly is involved, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Written interrogatories

The term “written interrogatories” refers to written questions that one party sends to the other. The purpose is to get facts and answers that will be required in the hearing, and that can help to settle issues in general. One party sends the questions, and the other party must respond in an Affidavit so that the answers are properly sworn and can be included as evidence at the hearing.

Written interrogatories are not that common for chambers applications. Most parties already provide the necessary facts and information required in their Affidavits. In addition, when going to chambers, there is often not enough time to complete this process. Written interrogatories are more common when the parties are going to trial. However, written interrogatories are useful when the other party may be trying to hold back information. For more information on written interrogatories and the processes to follow if you want to try to use them, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

When you filed your paperwork with the Court, you were given a court date and time. You need to be there on that day. For further information on going to court and what is involved, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Responding to divorce-related Applications

The information in this section is for the spouse who responds to an “Application” that asks for something under the Divorce Act. This person is called the “Respondent.”

You have been served with forms telling you that there has been an Application made under the Divorce Act. In these forms, you have been notified of the date of the court hearing. If you agree with everything that is in those documents, you do not have to do anything. If you disagree with anything that is in those documents, you will need to complete a response.

“Applications” are heard in “chambers” or “special chambers.” For an introduction to these concepts, see the “Before you go to court: Get to know the court system” section above. For more detailed information about chambers, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

When you were served with notice of the first Application, you may also have been served with a “Statement of Claim for Divorce” or a “Statement of Claim for Divorce and Division of Matrimonial Property.” You can respond to both the Statement of Claim and the Application, but be aware that the response times will probably be different. For more information about how to respond to a Statement of Claim, see the “Responding to the Statement of Claim” section above. For more information about how to respond to the notice of Application, continue reading this section.

All of the links below take you to an electronic version of the forms (where available). You can also get paper copies of all of these forms at Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

Just because the application process has been started does not mean that you will now have to resolve everything through court. At any time, you can still come to an agreement and turn that agreement into a Consent Order. For more information about how to do this, see the “Consent orders” section below.

Time limits

Once you have been served with the documents for an Application, you have to complete your response within a “reasonable time” before the Application is scheduled to be heard. What is considered “reasonable” is different depending on your judicial centre. If you have any questions, contact the court in that area.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

If for any reason you cannot file your Response within the time limits, you may still be able to file the documents late and appear at the court hearing. However, you risk that your ex-spouse will ask for, and that the judge will grant, an “adjournment” (a delay of your court date). This would be because your ex-spouse did not have enough time to prepare for the hearing. Or the judge may give your ex-spouse what he or she has asked for without taking your documents into consideration because they were not filed in time.

Be Aware

For matters in special chambers, there are additional rules about response times and deadlines. These rules are very specific and strict, and they are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource.

Is the Application hearing set to take place before the time limit for filing a Statement of Defence?

When you were served with the documents for a first Application, you may have also been served with the “Statement of Claim” that started the divorce action. If that is the case, you will need to pay special attention to the scheduled court date, because it may be taking place before you have even had the chance to complete your Statement of Defence. Read the documents carefully and be sure you know what is expected of you.

For more information about how to respond to a Statement of Claim, see the “Defendant: Responding to the Plaintiff’s Statement of Claim” section above.

Is/was there domestic violence?

If there is/was domestic violence in your family, you can bring it up in your court documents. This can be particularly important if the violence is the reason you are making certain requests.

For information about how the presence of domestic violence can affect your paperwork, see the following resource.

Presentation Overview of Family Law
YWCA Canada
English

For more information, see Family Violence and the Legal Process.

If you want to apply for a protective order to help keep you safe, see the Protective Orders Information Page. The choices you make about protective orders may affect the process you need to follow with your other family law matters.

Responding to a “Notice to Disclose / Application”

When you were served with your spouse’s Application, you may also have been served with a “Notice to Disclose at the same time. For more information about how to respond to that, see the “Defendant: Responding to the Plaintiff’s Statement of Claim” section above.

Completing a Response

When responding to an Application (other than one that includes a Notice to Disclose), you have 3 choices:

  1. Do not file any forms. If you agree with what the Applicant is asking for, you do not have to fill out any documents.
  2. File only an Affidavit. You do this if you disagree with what the Applicant wants, but you are not asking for anything specific of your own. Or, do this if it is not clear what the Applicant is asking for (for example: if your former spouse asks for child support, but does not provide a specific amount).
  3. File an Affidavit and Application of your own. This is called a “Cross-application.” You do this if you disagree with what the Applicant wants, and you are asking for something of your own.

Filing only an Affidavit

If you choose to respond to your spouse’s Application with only an Affidavit, you will need the following form.

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the length of affidavits and the kind of evidence that can go in them. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. If you want to ask for an exception to these rules, you will need ask permission of the court. There is a very specific procedure for doing that). For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen’s Bench Chambers Clerk.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Filing an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

If you are responding to your spouse’s Application by filing a cross-application of your own, you will need to review the “Defendant: Responding to the Plaintiff’s Statement of Claim” section above.

A few things you should know:

  • In your Affidavit, you can include facts that respond to the documents completed by your spouse and the requests you are making in your own Application.
  • Usually it makes sense to choose the same hearing date as the date listed on your spouse’s Application (if that is possible), so that both Applications can be heard at the same time.
  • There are now 2 applications with various time requirements. You and your spouse may need more time to review and file all of the paperwork. So you may need to ask for an adjournment of your hearing. For information about how to do that, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.
Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about scheduling cross-applications. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen’s Bench Chambers Clerk.


Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Getting the paperwork checked over

Before you finalize all of your paperwork by “swearing” it (next step), you might want to have it checked over. This is to make sure that you have completed your paperwork in the way that the Court rules and directions require. This “check” is a very helpful step. If there is an error, your paperwork may be rejected and you might have to start all over again. It is much easier to have your paperwork checked before you complete the next steps. Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

“Swearing” the paperwork

Once your paperwork is filled out and checked over, you will need to complete it by properly “swearing” it. “Swearing” a document means that you are promising that everything in the document is true (as far as you know). Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

For more information about what’s involved with this step, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Filing” the paperwork

To file the paperwork, you must hand in the originals and multiple copies of everything. One copy of each document is for you and one is for any other parties. You file the documents at the Court of Queen’s Bench in the correct judicial centre.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

The clerk will stamp and keep the original copies of all of your documents and will return the stamped copies to you. All documents must have a court stamp on them. These copies are what you will need for the next step.

“Serving” the paperwork

Once all of your paperwork is in order and properly signed, you will need to “serve” it on the other party. “Service” is the legal term for delivering certain kinds of documents. This is the same as you were served with their paperwork to begin with. You have to make sure that he or she gets the notice as soon as possible. This is also a very important step, because if the paperwork is not properly served, the judge might not hear your matter.

For more information on how to serve documents, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

“Proving” that the paperwork was served

It is not enough for you to just serve the other party. You must also prove that you served the other party. To do so, the person who served the paperwork must swear an Affidavit of Service. This form must be completed by the person who completed the service, and filed before the court date. You will also need to bring a copy of this form with you to court.

Watch for your spouse’s response

If you responded with only an Affidavit

If, in response to your spouse’s Application, you filed only an Affidavit, your spouse may file a “Supplemental Affidavit.” Be sure to read that when you get it.

You cannot file a Supplemental Affidavit in response to your spouse’s Supplemental Affidavit: that is not permitted.

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of affidavits. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen’s Bench Chambers Clerk.


Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

If you responded with an Affidavit and a Cross-Application

If you responded with both an Affidavit and an Application of your own, your spouse is now the Applicant in his or her Application, and the Respondent in your Application.

As the Respondent to your Application, your spouse can file a “response” to your application. Watch for that response, and be sure to read it when you are served with it.

When you are served with your spouse’s response to your Application, you may be able to file a “Supplemental Affidavit.” You can only use a Supplemental Affidavit to change some factual information. This could be either something that has changed since you filed your Application, or to respond to some updated factual information provided by your spouse. In your Supplemental Affidavit, you should explain how the information is new and why it was not available when you first completed your forms. You cannot use Supplemental Affidavits to repeat the same facts or to make another argument. For more information about the rules around Affidavits, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Be Aware

There are very detailed and strict rules about the number and length of affidavits you are allowed in chambers. You will likely have to ask for the Court’s permission before filing a Supplemental Affidavit. These rules are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.


Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

If you were given a court hearing in regular chambers (sometimes called “morning chambers”), there may not be enough time to file a Supplemental Affidavit. For that reason, Supplemental Affidavits are less common in morning chambers. Supplemental Affidavits are more common in special chambers (sometimes called “afternoon chambers”). No matter which kind of chambers hearing you have, if you really need to file a Supplemental Affidavit, you may need to ask for an “adjournment” (delaying the hearing until a later date). For information about how to do that, see the “Going to and being in chambers” section below.

The form for a Supplemental Affidavit is below.

PDF Affidavit - Supplemental
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

You will need to file and serve this Supplemental Affidavit as well, so give yourself enough time. Be aware of the general rule that all documents must be filed with the Court within a “reasonable time” before the date of the court hearing. Exact timelines can vary by judicial centre. Although a judge may allow an exception to this rule, he or she is not required to do so. Also, you risk that your matter will be adjourned (delayed until a later date) because you did not give your spouse enough time to review your documents.

Questioning on Affidavit

Before a chambers hearing, it is possible for either party to formally “question” the other party about some of the facts set out in that party’s paperwork. This is called “Questioning on Affidavit.” It is not that common in general, but it is more common for special chambers than for regular chambers. For more information about Questioning on Affidavit, including why either you or your former partner would do it and what exactly is involved, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Written interrogatories

The term “written interrogatories” refers to written questions that one party sends to the other. The purpose is to get facts and answers that will be required in the hearing, and that can help to settle issues in general. One party sends the questions, and the other party must respond in an Affidavit so that the answers are properly sworn and can be included as evidence at the hearing.

Written interrogatories are not that common for chambers applications. Most parties already provide the necessary facts and information required in their Affidavits. In addition, when going to chambers, there is often not enough time to complete this process. Written interrogatories are more common when the parties are going to trial. However, written interrogatories are useful when the other party may be trying to hold back information. For more information on written interrogatories and the processes to follow if you want to try to use them, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

The Application tells you when and where court will be held. Go to that hearing. If you do not go to court on that day, the court may make an order without you there.

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English
Asking for changes to a chambers order (also called "varying")

Although rare, sometimes there is a change in circumstances and an order that was that was granted in chambers as a result of an application may need to be changed (or “varied”). To do so, the parties can use the standard Application forms above and simply indicate that the application is to vary a previous court order.

“Severing” the divorce from other separation-related issues

Usually, once the Defendant files a Statement of Defence, the “divorce” itself cannot be given until the issues included in the pleadings are resolved (either by agreement or through court applications).

However, in certain circumstances, it is possible to just deal with the divorce part while the other issues included in the pleadings (such as spousal support and property division) are still being resolved. This is called “severing” the divorce. An example of when it might be wanted: one spouse might want the divorce so that he or she can remarry.

The court does not always sever the divorce—there must be a good reason to complete the divorce before the other issues are settled. Part of the reason for this is that once a Divorce Judgment is granted, the party who wanted the divorce may simply ignore the other issues. Also, under the Divorce Act, the Court must refuse to sever the divorce if the Court thinks that there have not been reasonable child support arrangements made for the children.

The procedure for applying to the Court to ask to sever the divorce is basically the same as the procedure for other applications. For information, see the “Making divorce-related applications” and “Responding to divorce related applications” sections above.

Consent orders

Even if you have already filed paperwork to start your divorce, that does not mean that you will now have to resolve everything by “going to” court. At any time, you can still come to an agreement and turn that agreement into a Consent Order.

However, you can only do this if there is already a divorce action started in Queen’s Bench. In other words, you have already filed your Statement of Claim for Divorce.

In most judicial centres, you will take the following steps.

  • You fill out the correct Order form with the terms of your agreement.
  • You sign the form and have it properly witnessed.
  • You go to court to have a judge grant the order. You do that by attending “chambers” in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Chambers is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different cases by different people. Before the judge starts to hear the cases on the list, he or she will ask if there are any preliminary matters. At this time, people who want to ask the judge to sign a consent order can do so. . For more information about exactly how to do that, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

In Edmonton, however, Consent Orders can sometimes be done as “desk orders.” Resolution and Court Administration Services can help with this.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English

A form for a consent order is below.

PDF Instructions: Consent Order
Government of Alberta
English

Once you have the court Order, remember that you must also file it with the Court of Queen’s Bench and serve it on your spouse. For more information about this step of the process, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Going to and being in chambers

Plan to go to the chambers hearing

The Application tells you when and where court will be held. Go to that hearing. If you do not go to court on that day, the court may make an order without you there.

If you live far away from the location of the hearing and cannot attend in person, you may be able to attend by video or telephone. Contact the court clerks well before the hearing date to arrange that.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

Preparing for chambers

You will be appearing in “chambers” in the Court of Queen’s Bench. Chambers is where one judge sits in an open courtroom (meaning anyone can come in) and hears a list of different matters by different people (yours is just one on the list). Depending on your location and the amount of time your matter is expected to take, you may be in court in the morning or the afternoon. For more information on chambers and the processes around it see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

It is your responsibility to make sure that you are in the correct courtroom. When you enter the Courthouse, you can ask a staff member for directions.

For most people, going to court will be a brand new experience. It may also come as a bit of surprise. Being in court is not really as it appears on most television shows, and you will likely not be familiar with the rules of court (yes, there are rules!). Also, most people find that dealing with family issues in court is stressful.

For these reasons, it is a good idea to prepare for the court experience. The following resources provide some very useful information on preparing for court in Queen’s Bench.


Web Courtroom etiquette
Government of Alberta
English

For even more information, see the Representing Yourself in Court Information Page.

In some courthouses, you may have the option of speaking with “duty counsel.” Duty counsel are volunteer lawyers who will discuss your legal issue with you for free. This can include what the judge may think of your requests and the “merits of your claim.” There are no income restrictions to speak with duty counsel, but the service is limited. They are only at certain courthouses on certain days. Also, there may be many people waiting to speak with them. If you need to speak to duty counsel, make sure you get to the courthouse early. Check with your judicial centre to verify the times and days duty counsel will be available.

For information about what matters duty counsel can help with, and which judicial centres have duty counsel available, see the following resource.

Web Duty Counsel - Legal Assistance at Court
Legal Aid Alberta
English

Asking for an adjournment

Sometimes, due to circumstances beyond their control, one or both of the parties will not be able to attend court, or will not be prepared for court. It is possible to ask for a court hearing date to be moved. This is called an “adjournment.”

If both of you agree, you can arrange for an adjournment well in advance of the court hearing date. To find out how to do that, call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.

Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

You must have a good reason to ask for an adjournment. The Court is not pleased if adjournments are just asked for as a delay tactic. The Court keeps track of all adjournment requests. If there are too many requests for adjournments, the Court may deny the request or even impose penalties.

Be Aware

For matters in special chambers, there are additional rules about asking for adjournments. These rules are very specific and strict, and they are not just for lawyers—you must follow them even if you are representing yourself. For more information, see the following resource and call your Court of Queen's Bench Chambers Clerk.


Web Court of Queen's Bench Location & Sittings
Government of Alberta
English

In regular chambers, it is also possible to ask for an adjournment on the date of the court hearing. If both parties agree, you can ask for an adjournment before the chambers list begins (more information on chambers can be found on the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.)

The judge will ask if there are any preliminary matters—this is the time to make the request. Judges often grant such adjournments, but not always. For example, judges may refuse an adjournment if they are concerned that one or both of you will be harmed by the adjournment, or if they feel that the adjournment option has been abused. If the other party does not agree, you must wait for your turn on the list and request an adjournment when your turn comes. The judge may or may not grant the adjournment.

Generally, when you ask for an adjournment, you must immediately decide on a new hearing date. Sometimes, however, you may not know when you will need the hearing. For example, you may need time to complete something, but are unsure how long that will take. If that is the case, you may be able to adjourn “sine die”: this means without a set date.

Be Aware

If you have a lawyer, adjournment requests may go a bit differently. The other party may ask for an adjournment that you do not want. But, your lawyer might have to agree to it, as long as no harm will come to you as the client. This may be required by the lawyer’s professional Code of Conduct.

For more information about adjournments, see the following resource.

PDF Families and the Law: Representing Yourself in Family Court
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
See p. 28.

After the chambers hearing is over

In most cases, when your court hearing is over, the Order granted by the judge will be typed up by the court clerk. It may be ready shortly after the hearing. If it is not, it will be mailed to you. It will also be mailed to any other parties. If one of the parties is represented by a lawyer, the judge may ask that lawyer to type it up.

Once you have the Order, you may need to serve it on the other party—check with the court clerks. Remember, if you do have to serve the other party, you will also need to complete and file an Affidavit of Service.

Getting the “Divorce Judgment”

The “Divorce Judgment” is the court order that says that you have met the grounds for divorce, and that there are no bars to divorce. Without this court order, you will not be “divorced.”

Unless you sever the divorce (see above) or you and your spouse agreed on everything from the start and got a joint divorce, you probably had to fill out many forms to work through your divorce-related issues (such as custody, access, child support, spousal support, and property division). You may have decided on these issues through agreements, chambers applications, or even a full trial.

Because each divorce is different based on the family's situation, when you are in the final stages of getting divorced, there is not just one standard set of paperwork that everyone must complete. Instead, you may have a choice of exactly which documents to file in order to formally “ask” for your divorce.

Another thing that will differ with each situation is the “Divorce Judgment” itself. When you “ask” for a divorce, you fill out a draft Divorce Judgment. This draft Divorce Judgment is the document that lays out everything that has been decided, so the judge can see whether the grounds for divorce have been met, whether there are any bars to divorce, and whether all of the issues listed in the pleadings have been addressed, and resolved according to law. Exactly what you include in the draft Divorce Judgment will depend on what has happened in your specific situation so far.

Lastly, different courthouses may have slightly different procedures, so the steps you need to take might depend on where you live. For example: some prefer to have agreements attached; other prefer to have only the relevant parts of the agreement quoted in the court documents.

For these reasons, it is best to get some help with exactly which steps to take and which forms to fill out. You can ask a lawyer (see the Working with a Lawyer Information Page), or you can contact Resolution and Court Administration Services.

Web Resolution and Court Administration Services
Government of Alberta
English
Remember

Just because you have a Divorce Judgment does not mean that you are divorced; you will still need to get the Divorce Certificate (see below).

Asking for costs

The party who was most “successful” at the court hearing may ask that the other party pay the costs involved with going to court.

On the matter of the “divorce” itself, costs are rarely an issue, because parties don’t usually disagree about the “divorce” part. Instead, they disagree about the other things, such as child-related issues, spousal support, and division of property. However, it is possible for spouses to go to chambers because of an issue about the divorce itself. If they do, there could be an issue about costs.

If costs do become an issue for the “divorce” part itself, a few things to keep in mind are as follows.

  • Costs are not always awarded. Generally, they are kept for situations in which one side has been completely unreasonable or very difficult (this is called “vexatious”);
  • Costs awarded are never as much as the actual cost of going to court. Instead, the court generally gives a pre-set amount; and
  • Even if you are awarded costs, you still have the problem of actually getting that money paid to you. This may not be easy to get from someone who was unreasonable and vexatious in the first place.

If you want to ask for costs, you simply ask for it in your Application (if you are the Applicant) or your Affidavit (if you are the Respondent) and again at the end of the hearing. If you forgot to ask for it in your paperwork, you can try to ask for costs at the end of your hearing. However, the judge may not consider the request if it was not included in the paperwork. Sometimes a judge will grant costs, even if it was not requested. This could happen if the judge feels that one side has been unreasonable or vexatious.

For more information about costs, see the following resources.


Web How much can be payable for court costs in Alberta?
Bayda Disability Law Firm
English
This is a private source. Learn more here.

Video Costs in Family Law Cases
Feldstein Family Law Group
English
This resource is from a private source outside Alberta.Learn more here.
Be Aware

Judges can grant costs if the parties do not follow the rules about hearings (for example: rules about the paperwork restrictions and the deadlines). For more information about these rules, see the following resource.

Finalizing the divorce: Getting the Divorce Certificate

Just because you have a Divorce Judgment does not mean that you are divorced. Before that can happen, the 30-day appeal period must pass, without the judgment being appealed. On the 31st day, the divorce judgment takes effect, but you will still need to get a “Divorce Certificate” to prove that the divorce was completed.

Once the appeal period has passed, it is up to you to go get your Divorce Certificate. You will need to contact the clerk’s office at the Court of Queen’s Bench location where you got your divorce. You will need to provide your court file number. If you have your court file number, getting the Divorce Certificate is free (but the court might charge a fee for copies). If you do not have your court file number, you will have to pay a $10 search fee to get the number before asking for the Divorce Certificate.

To ask for your Divorce Certificate, you will need to complete this form:

Web Request for Certificate of Divorce
Government of Alberta
English

In certain circumstances, it is possible to speed up the process of getting the Divorce Certificate. For example: if one of the parties is remarrying. In order to do so, you must ask a judge for permission. You do this by completing an additional document when you apply for a Divorce Judgment. Specifically, you are asking for the appeal period to be “waived.” This is done by completing the following document (instructions are included).

PDF Instructions for waiver of appeal period
Government of Alberta
English
 
Be Aware

If you were divorced before 1985 you will not get a Divorce Certificate, but something called a “Decree Absolute” instead. It is the same thing, it just used to have a different name.

If your divorce was a long time ago, you may not know your court file number, or you may not remember in which court it was given. It is also possible that you may not remember seeing any final paperwork, and you are not even sure if the divorce was ever finalized. In such cases, the easiest solution is to contact the Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings in Ottawa. They will also be able to help you get a copy of your divorce certificate (or decree absolute), if there is one.

Web The Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings
Government of Canada
English

Web Bureau d'enregistrement des actions en divorce
Government of Canada
French
Remember

If the parties get a divorce judgment but the property issues have not been settled, there is a limit of 2 years from the date the divorce was granted to start a matrimonial property action. For more information, see the Property Division for Married Spouses Information Page.

Going to trial

It is not that common for divorcing spouse to go to trial about the “divorce” part itself. However, it can happen. Going to trial is very different than going to other kinds of court hearings. There are different rules and procedures. It is also much more time-consuming and much more expensive. For information about going to trial, see the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Appealing the divorce

In order to appeal a divorce judgment, you must apply within the 30-day appeal period.

However, you cannot appeal a decision simply because you are not happy with it. You can only appeal if you believe the judge has made an error of law or a substantial error on the facts.

For more information, see the following resource and the Understanding the Court Process Information Page.

Web Make an appeal at the Court of Queen's Bench
Government of Alberta
English

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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