Calgary Divorce Lawyers
If you’re in the process of divorcing in Calgary, the stress and emotions involved do not always lead to the best decision-making.
The strong feelings of doubt, resentment, guilt, and so on can impede clear thought.
In this situation, making clear decisions about the future is almost impossible.
- Who keeps the house and car?
- What happens with the retirement plans?
- Who will look after the children?
- How much spousal support is right?
All these questions and many more need answers.
It helps to have an advocate by your side, who is able to offer good legal advice throughout the process.
Our experienced Calgary divorce lawyers can help you navigate the divorce process and achieve a favorable outcome for your future.
Table of Contents
DIVORCE AND SEPARATION IN CALGARY
Regardless of where you live in Canada, there are federal and state laws that govern the divorce procedure.
While a court appearance is not always necessary by you in person, the Alberta courts are required to rubber-stamp any divorce and may be required to make judgments on the divorce agreement, in the case of a dispute.
The Canadian Divorce Act specifies how divorces can proceed. Marriage breakdown is the only grounds for divorce in Alberta.
This can be the result of one or more of the following events:
- Adultery; or
Separation in Calgary
Separation is probably the most common precursor to divorce.
Couples in Calgary must be separated for 12 months before a divorce can pass through the courts.
The date of separation is considered to be the date that you stop living together as a couple.
This usually involves one of the parties living out of the matrimonial home but note that this is not absolutely necessary.
In some cases, couples decide to keep living together but:
- Sleeping separately
- Eating separately
- Maintaining separate bank accounts
- Living social lives completely apart
Because the divorce procedure (see the following section) is very involved, it is a good idea to try to use the 12-month separation period to address, and, hopefully, resolve some of the key issues that will be raised when it is time to draw up the divorce agreement:
If you can reach an agreement during the separation period, it will not be binding, but it may reduce stress and delays during the actual divorce process.
This is a good time to start consulting a Calgary divorce lawyer for expert guidance.
Read More → How do I get a Divorce?: A guide to the whole process
Read More → How Much Does it Cost to get a Divorce?
THE CALGARY DIVORCE PROCEDURE
Steps to filing for a divorce
After a 12-month separation period following the separation agreement (unless there is adultery or abuse in the marriage), you are able to file for a divorce in Calgary.
The procedure will usually take between three and six months if it is uncontested.
However, if there are divorce disputes (see below), the process could last many months or even years in the most complex divorces.
If we assume that your divorce is uncontested (i.e. you and your spouse reach agreement in all the major areas) after the 12-month separation period, your divorce lawyer will:
- Prepare, file and serve the Statement of Claim for Divorce: Prepare, file and serve the Statement of Claim for Divorce: filed in your local Calgary courthouse and “served” to your spouse
- Await the response: In Alberta, the response must be made within 20 days or no contest is assumed by the court
- Complete other necessary forms: Proposed Divorce Judgment, Child Support Data Sheets, etc.
- Await review of your case by the court: After completing the necessary forms, both parties will receive copies of the Divorce Judgment (around 4-6 weeks after a judgment is made)
Once these steps are complete, you will receive your Certificate of Divorce. This is usually sent out 31 days after the Divorce Judgment is made.
The exact process for your divorce may vary slightly according to circumstances but most uncontested Calgary divorces proceed along these lines.
Even though an uncontested divorce is a smoother and quicker process than a contested divorce, the experience of a specialist divorce lawyer is irreplaceable.
MAIN ITEMS IN A CALGARY DIVORCE AGREEMENT
There are usually several main areas that couples must decide on before a divorce agreement can be drawn up.
If there are children, this can be especially complex because their needs must come before the parents’ needs.
When emotions are already running high, it can be difficult to make impartial decisions that are in the best interests of the children.
The experience and patience of an experienced divorce lawyer can be invaluable in these cases. Your lawyer can act as a mediator or work collaboratively with you to help you work through the issues (more about this below).
Following are the main items that you and your spouse must aim to reach agreement on:
CALGARY MARITAL PROPERTY DIVISION
Typically, the main issues when dividing the marital property are:
- Who ends up with the house?
- Who gets the car(s)?
- What happens to your investments?
- How do you divide the income planned for retirement?
- What about cash from bank accounts and savings?
- How do you divide the valuable items like art or jewelry?
Divorcing couples in Alberta must aim for an equal division of combined assets.
However, note that there may be tax implications of your decisions and these can be discussed with your lawyer.
SPOUSAL SUPPORT IN CALGARY
Alimony or spousal support in Calgary is the regular payments made to support an ex-spouse after a couple goes through a divorce in Alberta.
It may not apply to you. This largely depends on your income and the income of your ex-spouse, as well as the duration of your marriage.
This should be discussed with an experienced lawyer, who is familiar with the calculations and formulas applied for calculating spousal support.
Note that decisions about spousal support are made separately from those about child support.
If you are looking for some initial guidelines on spousal support, take a look at the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAGs), a reference tool for divorcing partners.
CHILD CUSTODY IN CALGARY
If there are children in the marriage, a divorce nearly always becomes complicated.
Courts in Alberta will stress that all decisions regarding the children must ultimately be based on their best interests.
Sometimes, these interests conflict with what each parent wants and this can create conflict, disputes, and legal battles.
In most cases, the Court will consider that a child should be raised with the input of both parents. However, a judge may need to decide which parent the child should live with and what the terms of visitation are for the non-custodial parent.
With the aid of your divorce lawyer, you can avoid unnecessary stress and work towards a solution that places the children in the best care situation but also allows fair visitation rights for the other parent.
CHILD SUPPORT IN CALGARY
A divorce agreement needs to demonstrate that the needs of the children are looked after. Otherwise, the Court may intervene.
Child support arrangements are another complex area that your divorce lawyer can guide you through.
You will need to decide how much one parent should pay to the other parent for the purpose of raising the children in their home.
This decision should take into account:
- How much the regular fixed monthlly payments should be
- What happens when one-off payments for expenses like education/medical needs are required
Please refer to the Federal Child Support Guidelines for further insight into child support.
Child support is money paid to help cover the expenses of raising children. There are two types of child support, base (Section 3) child support and extra expenses (Section 7).
Base child support (section 3) is meant to cover the basic expenses of the children, such as their regular clothes, their notional share of the mortgage/rent and utilities.
Extra expense child support or Section 7 child support is payable over and above the monthly base child support amount. It is money that covers the extra costs of the children, those that fall under Section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines. Section 7 states that certain expenses are shareable between parents in proportion to their incomes. So, if you earn 75% of the joint spousal income then you would pay 75% of the extra Section 7 expenses.
Click here to learn more about Child Support.
Calgary Divorce Dispute Resolution
Unfortunately, in many cases, divorces do not proceed smoothly. Disputes can develop about any or all of the issues outlined above.
When such situations arise, the experience of a professional divorce lawyer can help you reach a solution, even in the most difficult circumstances.
A Calgary divorce lawyer can mediate between you and your ex-spouse, often providing alternative options that have not been considered with regards to the key issues:
- The division of marital assets
- Child custody
- The non-custodial parent’s visitation rights
- Child Support
- Spousal Support
A mediating lawyer will take a neutral stance in the strictest confidentiality, with the aim of finding a mutually compatible resolution (rather than representing the best interests of one party).
Divorce mediation is one of the most frequent methods used to reach a resolution.
If it works out, mediation avoids a potentially lengthy (and costly) trial that can be stressful for both spouses.
The collaborative law process involves a divorce lawyer intervening to help a couple reach an amicable divorce agreement in an open and honest atmosphere.
The two spouses sign a written agreement with their attorneys committing to best-of-faith efforts to reach an agreement out of court.
Usually, the process involves negotiation meetings between the spouses and their divorce lawyers.
If an agreement can be reached, the lawyers draw up the necessary documentation to present to the Court.
Divorces do not need to be disputed or challenged. Some divorces proceed smoothly and are “uncontested”.
That is, both parties reach an amicable settlement about the dissolution of their marriage and all the main factors that are at stake, most notably:
- The grounds for the divorce
- Division of Marital Assets
- Which parent the children will live with
- Visitation rights for the other parent
- Spousal support
- Child support
Even in uncontested divorces, it is advisable to seek the assistance of a lawyer.
Some divorces that start out as “uncontested” develop disputes and a lawyer can help prevent this.
A lawyer will also help ensure that any agreement you reach will be acceptable to the Court in Alberta.
CONTACT AN EXPERIENCED CALGARY DIVORCE LAWYER
Whether you are facing a contested or uncontested divorce, it is important to call on the services of a dedicated divorce lawyer in Calgary to look after your best interests.
The team of lawyers at Spectrum Family Law in Calgary can help if you are filing for divorce or have been served divorce papers.
Whether it involves mediation, collaborative law, or going to trial, we will work with you towards a practical agreement that sets you up for your future life separate from your ex-spouse
Get A Consultation
There are situations where a Justice may not let you get a divorce, these include:
1. Spouses who intentionally mislead the Court will not be allowed to divorce.
An example would be two spouses agreeing to state that they have been separated for one year when in fact they have only been separated for one month.
2. You and your spouse have children that you have not worked out an arrangement for.
The Justice must be satisfied that reasonable arrangements have been made to take care of and support the children financially after the divorce. What is reasonable will depend on each couple’s circumstances, but the Justice will decide if the arrangements that have been made are fair.
You must ensure that these issues are dealt with before going to Court for a divorce application or else you may have to go back again after having dealt with any issues that were found.
It is possible for a couple to be granted a Divorce Judgment before they have dealt with the division of matrimonial property. This includes all of the property that they have acquired during their married life. However, most of the time, matrimonial property will be divided between the spouses during the divorce proceedings, either through an agreement or by following a Court Order. If the property is divided by an agreement between the spouses, each spouse must have had independent legal advice before entering into that agreement. If the property is divided by a Court Order, Alberta’s Matrimonial Property Act will govern the terms of the Order.
Property division can be very complicated and it is recommended that you speak with a lawyer about all of your options. For more information, see the Student Legal Services pamphlet “Division of Property: Married Couples”.
Under the Divorce Act, one spouse must be “ordinarily resident” in Alberta. This means you must have lived in Alberta for one year immediately before the divorce action is begun. If you have children, it is usually best to file your divorce action in the province where your children live.
You may be able to get divorced in Alberta no matter where you were married. If you were married outside of Canada, the Court will need some proof that the marriage was valid according to the law of that country. If this applies to you, you will need a marriage certificate and an affidavit proving the marriage was in solemn form (valid). If you were married in a Canadian province other than AB, a marriage certificate issued by the government of the province where you married would be sufficient proof of an out-of-province marriage. Please remember that you must still meet the “ordinarily resident” requirement (lived in Alberta for one year before your divorce action) no matter where you were married.
The length of time from start to finish for a divorce action depends upon how quickly you (or your lawyer) finish the paperwork, how easy it is to locate and serve the documents on your spouse, and how many complications there are in the case. An uncontested divorce will generally take between 6 months to a year. A contested divorce could take several years.
Various things might happen during the 31-day waiting period between the date of the Divorce Judgment and the date you can make an application for a Certificate of Divorce:
1. You and your spouse might get back together. If so you should apply to set aside the Divorce Judgment. You would then once again be considered married to each other.
2. A spouse might appeal the Judgment. If this happens, no Certificate of Divorce can be issued.
NOTE: An appeal cannot be started after the Certificate of Divorce has been issued.
3. A spouse may apply to set aside the Divorce Judgment because it was obtained as a result of fraud. This application would have to be finished before a Certificate of Divorce could be issued.
The 31-day waiting period may be waived if there are special circumstances that make it in the public interest to grant the divorce earlier. An example of special circumstances would be one spouse wanting to remarry within a short period of time due to the impending birth of a child or death of a family member.
It is unlikely any of these occur, and the Certificate of Divorce is granted 31 days after the Divorce Judgment, on application to the Clerk of the Court.
There must be arrangements made for children under 18 whenever you are going through a divorce proceeding. These are known as corollary relief Orders.
Corollary relief Orders are Orders dealing with spousal support, child support, child custody and access. Corollary relief Orders can be made for a limited time (called an ‘Interim Order’) or they can be made as a final Order. They can be made after separation but before a divorce or during the divorce process.
Note: if there are children, a Justice must see that there have been arrangements made for their support before granting a divorce judgment.
Parenting After Separation Seminar
If you and your spouse have children under the age of 16, you MUST attend the Parenting After Separation Seminar before making any application to the court dealing with your children, or before applying for a Divorce Judgment. After completing the course, parents will receive a certificate of completion that will be filed with the courts.
For more information, please contact Spectrum Family Law and schedule a consultation with a family law specialist.