Divorce

In Your Province

Divorcing in your Province

Know the laws in your province

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Divorce vs. Separation

There are two components to ending a marital relationship: Separation and Divorce. People often combine these two components, but they are not one and the same.

A “separation” is when a couple decides to live apart due to a relationship break down. The couple may be married or may not be married but living together like a common-law relationship.

A “divorce” is when a court legally ends a marriage. Only legally married couples can divorce. A common-law relationship does not require a divorce.

Federal and provincial governments are all responsible for Family Law; however, they govern different rules.

What is Separation Agreement?

A Separation Agreement is a detailed, legally binding document that a couple enters after there is a marriage breakdown. It sets out the legal responsibilities and rights with regards to property, support, and custody. Some of the areas that it will cover include:

  • Division of property and debt
  • Custody, residential care and co-parenting
  • Child support arrangements
  • Spousal support (lump sum vs. fixed vs. variable)
  • Adult interdependent partner support arrangements
  • Communication and future process for conflict resolution
  • Details of your separation that are important enough to document in writing.

Provincial Law for Separation

Do both provincial and federal laws apply to a separation agreement and divorce?

In Canada, the provinces and territories are responsible for the laws that set out the rules for dividing property when a couple separates. Property may include:

  • Businesses
  • Home(s)
  • Vacation property
  • Other property
  • Pensions
  • Canada Pension Plans
  • Registered Investments (RRSP, LIRA, etc.)
  • Non-registered Investments (private equity and shares, mutual funds, etc.)
  • Employment benefits (stock options, RSUs, PSUs, etc.)
  • Cash
  • Dividing pre-marriage and marriage assets and liabilities
  • Debt
  • Vehicles

Federal Law for Divorce and Child and Spousal Support

The Federal Divorce Act governs divorce in Canada and regulates the law with regards to marriage and divorce. The federal child and spousal support guidelines have become that standard application in courts across Canada, but there is some variation and do not themselves form part of the Act. While these guidelines are not the law by the Act, child support calculations are standard across Canada and once income and residential care are determined the tables can be applied. With regards to spousal support (alimony in the US), there is more variance in outcome from province to province, and Judge to Judge. That being said, most lawyers and divorce professionals readily use software that is based on these guidelines.

The Divorce Act sets out rules regarding:

  • Grounds for a divorce
  • Child Support
  • Spousal Support
  • Custody and parenting arrangements for children

As the Divorce Act is a federal law, it applies across Canada; however, the process of getting a divorce falls under provincial law.

Monthly Child Support Calculator

Provincial Laws when couples do not apply for divorce

Provincial laws also have rules regarding child support, spousal support, and custody and parenting arrangements for children. However, these laws apply when an unmarried or married couple separates but does not pertain for a legal divorce.

Provincial Laws covering both divorce and separation

The laws of a province may be like the Divorce Act; however, there could also be significant differences that can impact your rights. Therefore, it is important to be educated on divorce and separation in your province.

Some matters that fall under provincial law in both separation and divorce cases are:

  • The administration of justice, which includes:
    • Processing divorce applications
    • Decisions regarding child support, spousal support and child custody
  • Regulations regarding dividing shared property
  • Family justice services such as:
    • Mediation
    • Parenting after separation education

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