Your Beginner’s Guide to Getting Divorced in Canada


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“Divorce” and “separation” are often used interchangeably. While they may be similar, legally, they are different concepts. In this article, we will talk about the differences between divorce and separation and how they are dealt with in Canadian law.

Divorce versus Separation

A divorce ends a valid marriage or a court order dissolving a valid marriage. A court order ending a marriage is called a “divorce order” or a “decree nisi” (meaning “until proven otherwise”).

A separation is when two people stop living together because they don’t want to be married but haven’t filed for a divorce. A separation is also a legally binding agreement that you have made with your spouse regarding your relationship. While it is not as permanent as divorce, it can still affect your assets and finances, depending on the agreement.

To get divorced in Canada, you must be a resident of the province or territory in which you are filing the divorce. Every province and territory has different laws about the process and residency requirements, and the grounds for divorce will vary depending on where you file.

Divorce in Canadian Federal Law

Under the Divorce Act, a couple can only divorce if:

  • The pair have been living separate and apart for at least one year
  • One of the pair has resided in Canada for at least one year immediately before the divorce
  • Both people have lived in the same province for at least one year immediately before the divorce

There are certain exceptions to these rules. For example, if you or your spouse met someone else, or if you all move to another country, then the one-year rule won’t apply.

There are also exceptions if one partner doesn’t want to divorce, but the other partner does. The other spouse can get a divorce even if the person doesn’t want to give consent.

Divorce in Provincial and Territorial Laws

Canadian provinces and territories have their family laws, which don’t need to be the same. These laws apply to people who have been living in a particular province or territory.

The rules around divorce are different depending on where you get divorced. Some provinces and territories don’t allow a couple to divorce on no-fault grounds, which means both people involved in the marriage must agree to the divorce.

Working with a Divorce Lawyer

When you decide to get divorced or separated, you will have to choose how you want to deal with the issues that arise as a result of your split, including:

  • Who will live in the family home
  • Who will be responsible for the debts
  • Who will have custody of the children
  • Whether you will have spousal support (also known as maintenance or alimony)
  • Your property rights

These are just some of the issues you will have to resolve, and how you decide them can have a significant impact on your future, both financially and emotionally. This is why it is essential to talk to a lawyer before making any decisions that could affect your life.


When you are getting divorced, it is important to understand the differences between divorce and separation. While you can begin the separation process without having filed for a divorce, legally, you must file for a divorce if you want to end your marriage.

If you need a divorce lawyer in Langley, you can get in touch with Dreyer and Associates Lawyers LLP. We have a team of professional lawyers committed to making it easier for you to deal with the legal aspect of your divorce. Contact us to get started.






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