If you’re separated and considering a divorce or have already initiated divorce proceedings, you may be wondering how long a divorce takes in Ontario.
The answer, like with most areas of family law, is that it depends.
It depends on many factors and, remember, no two divorces are alike. There are always certain details and nuances that make your matter slightly different and unique.
Whether it is to do with possessions and assets, custody of children, spousal support or other matters, there are always many important matters to resolve before the judge is able to sign your divorce order.
Let’s take a look at the types of divorces and what you can expect in terms of the time it will take for the process to be completed.
Divorces In General
In Canada, there is a requirement to be living separate and apart for a year before a divorce order is granted, unless there has been cruelty or adultery in the marriage (click here to learn more about divorce in Ontario).
If the court is satisfied that the latter has occurred, your divorce can, in many cases, be effectively fast-tracked, with no separation period required and no 31-day wait to grant the Certificate of Divorce after the court order.
In most cases, a couple divorces after living separate and apart (click here to learn more about what this means) – during which time they can ideally negotiate a separation agreement.
The main points of contention in divorces are usually:
- Distribution of assets and debts
- Child custody and visitation rights
- Child support payments
- Amount and duration of spousal support payments (if any)
These are the “big-ticket items” and, if you can reach agreement on these important elements, your divorce should be a less stressful process and take less time.
Unfortunately, disputes are very common among divorcing spouses. Even where spouses start out in general agreement, issues can arise that make seemingly simple arrangements much more complex.
Uncontested divorces are available when you and your spouse are able to agree on the main points and avoid a court.
If you can prepare a legally binding separation agreement with your lawyer(s), this is generally better for everyone concerned, especially if you have children.
Even if you can’t agree on all the main items but you are prepared to discuss terms with your partner, your lawyers can assist you to negotiate a comprehensive and lasting settlement. Alternatively, you can go through a process of mediation where a professional mediator helps you reach an agreement (click here to learn more about the mediation process).
The family law court system in Ontario is structured to encourage the parties to settle matters amicably and according to all parties’ best interests as soon as possible without the need for unnecessary or additional litigation in court. If there are children involved, the courts must take a more active role to protect the best interests of the children. This may add time and extra steps to the divorce process.
If you have no children and can address all matters through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration, you can expect your divorce to be finalized by the Ontario courts in four to six months.
Note that there are two types of uncontested divorces in Canada:
- An uncontested simple divorce – where one spouse files for divorce and serves the other party (this may indicate a lack of cooperation between partners)
- An uncontested joint divorce – where both spouses file the divorce application (usually a sign of good cooperation between partners)
Joint divorce applications are generally processed faster than simple uncontested divorces in Ontario because the other party does not need to be served.
When you file your uncontested divorce, it will take at least one or two months for a divorce clearance certificate to be issued from the Central Registry of Divorce in Ottawa. Delays are not uncommon, especially if there are applications from similar names filed in other provinces.
After this, the steps you will need to go through are:
- Service of documents (in the case of a simple uncontested divorce) – usually it takes one to three weeks to serve the papers and then a few weeks to receive the response from the other spouse (longer if there are problems contacting the other partner).
- Divorce hearing – after receiving the divorce clearance certificate, if the respondent has not replied within 30 days of being served, a divorce hearing is required, by which a divorce judge will review the file. It could take four to eight weeks before the divorce order is processed. Please note that in almost all cases, you will not have to appear in court before judge for the judge to review and approve your divorce application.
- The certificate of divorce is issued within 30 days of the divorce order being received and the process is then considered complete.
Contested divorces in Ontario may go through many more steps than uncontested divorces.
Litigation is involved in contested divorces and lengthy court battles are not only costly but they can take years rather than months to complete.
Litigation is more common where matters such as child custody and child support are contested. In addition to the extra time it takes to complete a contested divorce, the process can become a high-conflict and emotionally exhausting process for both spouses and may damage the relationship permanently, which can adversely affect the children.
With a contested divorce, you can apply to the court by filing a motion to separate the matter of the divorce from other issues like division of property.
A contested divorce will surely require legal assistance and the litigation process will likely require several court appearances.
How To Ensure That Your Divorce Takes No Longer Than Necessary
You can help ensure that your divorce takes no longer than necessary by familiarizing yourself with the laws and the processes associated with divorce in Ontario.
Litigation is a time-consuming process that no one expects or enjoys. Generally, the more documentation you have prepared and the more you can discuss the main issues with your spouse, the quicker the process will be for you.
Schedule Your Free Consultation
The divorce lawyers at Amiri Family Law in Mississauga are experienced in both negotiation and litigation.
Start with a free consultation to help us evaluate your case.