Vancouver Divorce Lawyers

Family Divorce Lawyers in Vancouver, BCIf you’re only left with one option – divorce – the question becomes how can you manage the divorce process so that you (and your children, if applicable) are best positioned for the future?

The experienced divorce lawyers at Spectrum Family Law in Vancouver can guide you through the complexities of the divorce process while working towards your best interests.

Must ReadThe Complete Vancouver Divorce Resolution Process

Divorce in Vancouver: What is Marital Breakdown? 

According to the federal Divorce Act, marital breakdown is the only ground for divorce in Canada.

Marriage breakdown can occur due to three possible reasons:

  1. Separation (minimum 12 months)
  2. Adultery, or
  3. Cruelty

Learn MoreBritish Columbia Marriage Agreements – Pre-Nuptials & Cohabitation Agreements


Vancouver Divorce Lawyers

Steps in the British Columbia Divorce Process

While the Divorce Act does dictate some of the terms of a divorce, the provincial BC Family Law Act also lays out some of the requirements in the divorce process.

Every divorce is unique but the standard procedure for divorces in Vancouver follows these six steps…

Prepare a statement of claim for divorce

Firstly, if you are the “plaintiff” (the person filing for divorce) you must prepare a Statement of Claim for Divorce. This is a document that should include the following:

  • ID info for your spouse and you
  • The grounds for divorce
  • Details about your children, if applicable
  • How you plan to distribute matrimonial property

File the statement of claim for divorce

When the statement of claim for divorce is complete, you must check and sign the statement and then file it with the appropriate BC court. This will depend on where in Vancouver you live.

Note that you or your spouse must have lived in BC for at least one year to be eligible to file a statement of claim for divorce here.

Serve the statement of claim for divorce

As the plaintiff, you must organize to deliver (“serve”) the documents on the other spouse (the “defendant”), with the help of either a professional service, a family member or a friend. 

If your spouse is now located outside of Canada, the court may grant special permission to serve the documents in an alternative way.

Await a response to the statement 

Your spouse has 30 days to respond to the statement of claim for divorce in BC from the date it is served. If he or she is now located outside of Canada, a longer period can be granted.

In the response, some or all of the claims in the statement may be contested and counter-claims even made by the defendant.

If there is no response, the divorce will proceed as uncontested and you can proceed by filing some or all of the following documents with the court:

  • Sworn Affidavit of Service
  • Noting in Default
  • Request for Divorce
  • Affidavit of Applicant
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Agreements or orders pertaining to the divorce
  • Prior Certificates of Divorce
  • Proposed Divorce Judgment
  • Child Support Data Sheets 
  • Parenting after Separation Certificate or Exemption 

If, however, the defendant files a dispute, there will be an Examination of Discovery hearing in the court. 

Court review of your case 

Your case will be reviewed by a Justice assigned to your case. 

If it is determined that the documents you have submitted meet all requirements (which can be challenging if children are involved), the Justice will sign and issue the Divorce Judgement. 

You and your spouse will receive mailed copies of the Judgement within four to six weeks.

Issuance of your divorce certificate

After 31 days from the date that the Judgement is signed, it becomes final. You can then request that the court issue your Certificate of Divorce. 

From that point, you are legally divorced in BC and your Certificate of Divorce will be required for remarriage as well as other matters.

Read MoreHow do I get a Divorce?: A guide to the whole process
Read MoreHow Much Does it Cost to get a Divorce?

What is a separation agreement in Vancouver? 

Vancouver Divorce Lawyers
Before you divorce in Vancouver, you must be separated for at least 12 months. 

Some couples who part on amicable terms prefer to draw up a formal separation agreement outlining the terms of separation with regards to child support, child custody, spousal support, debt and asset division, and so on. 

Such an agreement can help you avoid the delays and expense associated with litigation and a court trial.

Marital property division in Vancouver

A key point of contention when relationships end is what happens to the house, the car, the business, or other property or assets owned by the respective spouses or partners.

Reaching an equitable settlement that protects your interests and sets you up for life away from the marriage is a paramount aim of divorce negotiations and other dispute resolution methods.

It can be complex and, in the interests of protecting your interests, it’s usually best for an experienced lawyer to assist.

In BC, the law states that:

  • Married couples are entitled to an equal share of assets acquired during the relationship
  • Married couples must share debts evenly
  • The same rules may apply to unmarried couples if they meet the definition of “spouse” in the Family Law Act

Spousal Support in Vancouver 

Spousal support (or “alimony”) is often another key component of divorce settlements in Vancouver.

In B.C., support may be ordered to be paid from one spouse to another to help support their needs after a relationship breakdown. It is treated completely separately from child support by the court. 

Spousal support is not a punitive measure. Instead, the court aims to ensure that both spouses have the opportunity to become financially independent. In many cases, spousal support can prevent financial hardship for one partner during a separation and/or after a divorce.

How much is paid, by whom, and for how long, is calculated using the Federal Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines.

Learn MoreDivorce or Legal Separation: Which is Better for Family & Finances

Child Custody in Vancouver 

Vancouver Child Custody Family LawyersWhen children are involved in a marriage or relationship breakdown, it is nearly always more complex to reach agreeable settlements.

The best interests of the children always come first, according to B.C. law. So, every decision made by the parents or the courts must bear this important fact in mind.

The “best interests” of the child must help decide who has legal custody, who has physical custody, what the visitation rights are for the non-custodial parent, and how all the needs of the child are met (educational, medical, recreational, and so on).

Child Support in Vancouver 

Child support is paid by one parent to the other parent to cover the costs of raising the child. It is the legal right of that child.

The court will award child support after the costs of everyday needs (food, clothing, transport, etc.) as well as education, medical costs, and other extraordinary costs are taken into account. 

The parent who has physical custody of the child for the bulk of the time will generally receive child support payments from the other parent while that child remains dependent. 

This can be enforced and failure to make payments can result in legal action being taken.

Divorce Dispute Resolution in Vancouver

With the stakes being so high and so much to consider with divorces, it’s no surprise that disagreements are common with child support, spousal support, property division, etc.

When this happens, there are two main options: choose one of the proven methods to resolve these types of family law disputes or rely on litigation.

Most couples prefer to keep the matter out of court, where disputes become public, time-consuming, and expensive – and decisions are out of their control.

We have helped hundreds of couples stay out of court using alternative divorce dispute resolution methods including:

  • Divorce Negotiation – we can represent you in negotiations with the other party’s lawyers to arrive at an equitable solution in your best interests.
  • Divorce Mediation – we can mediate for you and your partner and help guide you towards an agreeable out-of-court settlement (you remain in control of the final decision). 
  • Divorce Arbitration – we act as independent arbitrators and both you and your spouse agree to abide by our final decision, which is legally binding.

These methods are generally less expensive, less time-consuming, and less stressful than taking the matter to a court trial – especially if you have children.

Uncontested Divorces in Vancouver

An uncontested divorce requires no appearance in court and, instead, the only act of the judge is to approve the agreement and sign the divorce certificate.

All issues in an uncontested divorce are resolved out of court between the divorcing couple, usually by using one of the methods described above.

Contact our Vancouver Divorce Lawyers Today

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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, British Columbia’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 British Columbia. This means you must have lived in British Columbia 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 British Columbia 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 British Columbia 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. 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. 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.