You live in the greater Vancouver metropolitan area. You are married, but significant differences have developed between you and your spouse. The two of you have begun to think about a divorce.
However, you are hesitant, because you have heard that the divorce process is long, complicated and expensive.
Your next step should be to speak to an experienced matrimonial attorney. If you decide to do so, the talented attorneys at Spectrum Family Law are here to help you. Depending upon the facts of your case, they might recommend that you should file an application for an uncontested divorce, a type of divorce that is relatively quick, uncomplicated and far less expensive than a traditional divorce.
The knowledgeable lawyers at Spectrum Family Law will educate and guide you throughout the process.
What is an Uncontested Divorce in British Columbia?
Unlike a traditional divorce, where significant differences may exist between the parties, in an uncontested divorce, the divorcing parties have resolved the issues by themselves. The lack of issues between the parties helps explain other ways in which an uncontested divorce is known in British Columbia, namely a joint divorce, a no contest divorce, or a desk order divorce.
Although the names vary, the process is the same—a judge will divorce the parties solely on the papers or application submitted, without taking testimony or conducting an inquiry.
The Issues that Must be Resolved in an Uncontested Divorce in British Columbia
The issues that must be resolved before an application for an uncontested divorce can be filed are the same issues that are present in a traditional divorce. The difference is that the parties in an uncontested divorce have resolved such issues at the outset of the litigation rather than at end of it.
These issues include the division of matrimonial property; the division of matrimonial debts; the potential payment of alimony, or spousal support; and if there are children, visitation, custody, and child support payments. The parties can try to resolve these issues by themselves through negotiations or with the aid of a mediator.
However, if they are unable to resolve them, and differences remain, they will be unable to file an application for an uncontested divorce.
What are the Advantages of an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce has numerous advantages over a traditional divorce, the two most obvious of which are time and money. While a traditional divorce can take several years to wind up through the judicial system, an uncontested divorce, where all issues have been resolved between the parties prior to the filing of a divorce application, jumps to the head of the line. The parties are granted a divorce in a far shorter period than if they had followed the numerous steps that may occur in a traditional, adversarial divorce.
The second advantage to an uncontested divorce is a significant reduction in legal fees. In a traditional divorce, lawyers are actively involved from the moment that they are retained by their clients. They need to learn about the history of the parties’ relationship so that they can devise a litigation strategy that will protect their client’s interests with respect to the complicated issues that arise in divorce litigation, such as the division of marital assets and debts, spousal and child support, and visitation and custody.
Thereafter, they will need to engage in potentially expensive discovery, draft motions during the litigation, and if settlement attempts fail, prepare for, and conduct a trial. All of this takes time, and as lawyers bill according to the amount of time they invest in a matter, costs can rapidly accrue.
In contrast, attorneys representing clients in an uncontested divorce generally charge a flat fee for the services that they perform. This is because the tasks that a lawyer will perform are far more limited, and largely confined to drafting or reviewing the parties’ agreement to make sure that it meets the legal requirements for an uncontested divorce. The attorneys at Spectrum Family Law have the experience and skill to make sure that you meet all the requirements for an uncontested divorce.
What are the Legal Requirements for an Uncontested Divorce in British Columbia?
The legal requirements for an uncontested divorce in British Columbia are simple and straightforward. There are four requirements, all of which must be met.
MARRIAGE BREAK DOWN
First, there must be demonstrable evidence that the marriage has broken down. This is usually established by the parties swearing and affirming that they have lived separate and apart for one year or more.
RESOLUTION OF MARITAL DISPUTES
Second, all differences and disputes between the parties must have been resolved, so that the court has no issues to adjudicate. That is, an application for an uncontested divorce will be rejected if even a single issue remains unresolved. All issues must be settled. As parties are often unable to resolve all issues by themselves, the expertise of experienced attorneys, such as those at Spectrum Family Law, are valuable in first narrowing, and thereafter resolving such lingering issues.
BRITISH COLUMBIA RESIDENTS
Third, the parties seeking an uncontested divorce must be able to establish that they are British Columbia residents. Such residency can be established by demonstrating that they have lived in the province for the past year. Once they both can prove this, they have met the residency requirement.
Thereafter, at least one of the two parties must continue to reside in British Columbia until the “Notice of Family Claim” for a divorce is formally filed.
The final requirements for an uncontested divorce are a marriage certificate and a photograph of one of the parties. An original marriage certificate must be obtained and presented. Similarly, since the attorney will only be representing one of the two parties, he must obtain a photograph of the second party.
As noted, all of these requirements must be met. You will not be granted an uncontested divorce while lacking any of the requirements.
Is a Separation Agreement Necessary for an Uncontested Divorce in British Columbia?
It is strongly recommended that a Separation Agreement be drafted in advance of filing an application for an Uncontested Divorce. The agreement should focus on the essential issues of the division of marital property and debt, alimony payments, and if applicable, custody, visitation and child support.
It is essential that such a critical document be properly drafted, and the highly experienced attorneys at Spectrum Family Law have the skill essential in drafting a separation agreement that demonstrates all issues have been resolved, so that the parties are eligible for an uncontested divorce.
Steps to Get an Uncontested Divorce in British Columbia
Generally, there are five steps to obtaining an uncontested divorce:
- Resolve all issues with respect to the division of matrimonial assets and debt, alimony, child custody and child support.
- File a Notice of Family Claim at the British Columbia Supreme Court.
- The Notice of Family Claim must be served on your spouse.
- If your spouse does not answer the Notice of Family Claim, you can initiate the desk order divorce process, in which your case will be decided on the papers without the necessity of appearing before a judge.
- Finally, if your spouse does respond, and agrees to your claim for divorce, you will appear before a judge to obtain a divorce.
However, if your spouse does not agree to your claim, you will be unable to obtain an uncontested divorce, and a Judicial Case Conference will be scheduled.
Contact Our Vancouver Uncontested Divorce Lawyers Today
An uncontested divorce has dramatic savings of time and cost as compared to a traditional divorce. However, specific requirements must be met. The experienced and knowledgeable lawyers at Spectrum Family Law are here to guide you successfully through the process of obtaining an uncontested divorce in British Columbia.
We also have a dedicated intake form to help you get the ball rolling. Our intake team will review your specific case and advise you on the next steps to take as well as what to expect moving forward.
Our Vancouver office is open 8:30 a.m.—4:30 p.m., Mon—Fri.
Kasia was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she completed her Bachelor’s degree at the University of British Columbia. She went on to obtain her Juris Doctorate with Honours from Bond University in Australia.