Serving Clients in Coquitlam, Vancouver & Lynden, BC
Divorce is the legal end of a marriage. Even if you are separated from your spouse for a long period of time, you must apply to the court if you want to be divorced. Some separated couples are satsified remaining married, and relying on a separation agreement to settle the issues arising from their separation. However, for married spouses that wish to separate and marry someone else later on, divorce is a mandatory process.
At Norton Law, our divorce lawyers and family legal team have decades of experience in developing personalized solutions for our clients and guiding them through the divorce process.
An uncontested divorce happens when you and your spouse agree on all issues arising from your separation. This includes property division and spousal support. If you and your spouse have children, this process also includes parenting arrangements and child support.
If you believe that you and your spouse can settle all legal issues without going to court, then it is typically much less expensive, faster and more amicable to do so. However, you should still consider hiring a lawyer to represent your needs and legal rights. Separations and divorces can be a very emotional and turbulent time in your life. Having a lawyer that deals with divorce and family law issues regularly can ensure that your interests and rights are best served and protected.
A contested divorce means that you and your spouse do not agree on some or all of the issues arising from your separation. This requires you and your spouse to deliberate, usually with the advice of your respective lawyers, to determine how disputes surrounding your assets, debts, child and spousal support, as well as custody and access, will be resolved.
It’s highly recommended that you seek legal representation if you believe you will face a contested divorce. Many things can arise during a divorce, especially when contested, and you may have to go to court. This can become very complicated, expensive and time-consuming and ultimately your life may change drastically depending on the court’s decisions.
Divorce Process in British Columbia
The family and divorce lawyers at Norton Law have over 30 years of experience dealing with divorce for British Columbians in a wide variety of circumstances. We understand that every family and couple is different, with different needs for the protection and representation of their legal rights.
The steps of the divorce process may vary depending on the couple’s relationship and their ability to resolve all of their legal issues including division of property, spousal support, parenting, child custody and support.
How Can You Begin a Divorce Process in British Columbia?
In British Columbia, there are three ways to begin your divorce process. Which method is used to file for divorce and begin the process will depend on the married couple’s particular circumstances.
- Filling a Petition for Divorce – This is the method of initiating divorce proceedings if a divorce may be contested, meaning that the spouses do not agree on something pertaining to their divorce (support, parenting arrangements, division of assets, etc.)
- Filling an Application for Divorce by Written Agreement – An application for divorce by written agreement can be used in an uncontested divorce. This application is filed by one spouse, and uses a written separation agreement as evidence that both spouses have resolved all issues between them.
- Both parties File a Joint Application for Divorce – A Joint Application for Divorce is filed by both spouses and can be done in the absence of a written agreement. This is the second way that the process for an uncontested divorce can be initiated.
Married couples may go through some or all of the following steps depending on if and when they are able to settle their legal matters before proceeding to litigation and trial in order for a judge to decide on the disputed issues.
For most cases, spouses are required to have been separated for 1 year prior to a divorce being granted by the courts. The date of separation is when the spouses begin to live “separate and apart”.
This often involves one spouse moving out of the “matrimonial home”, however, it isn’t a requirement. Many spouses separate while continuing to live in the same home, however, the separation still begins when they cease their normal matrimonial activities, such as maintaining separate finances, daily living, social activities as well as other indicators.
The next step is to attempt to reach an agreement on unresolved issues through negotiation. This can occur with or without legal representation, whether in the home, at a café or in a lawyer’s office. Often, lawyers will be involved to ensure your rights are being represented and protected. Your lawyer’s job is to be objective while recognizing that this is an emotional time.
If spouses are able to come to an agreement on some or all of the issues related to their marriage and family, including division of property and debts, support payments (i.e. spousal and child support) and parenting arrangments involving custody, access and visitation rights, they can sign a separation agreement. The issues covered in a separation agreement will vary based on the cirucmstances of the spouses.
Filing an Application for Divorce
If a separation agreement is signed and/or all issues can be resolved and a contested divorce can be avoided, then the spouses can proceed by filing a divorce through either an Application for Divorce by Written agreement or Joint Application for Divorce. Otherwise, a Petition for Divorce must be filed.
Even when there is a separation agreement made between the parties, it’s common for some issues to remain unresolved, or for new issues to arise that may not have been covered by the initital agreement. In other cases, very few legal issues are agreed upon and require further steps in dispute resolution to work out.
In any event, there are several alternatives to relying on the courts to decide on these matters. They have advantages including being far less expensive than going to court and less time-consuming.
Option 1 – Mediation
Mediation occurs between the spouses who agree to appoint a third party (the mediator) to guide and help them in resolving their disputed legal issues voluntarily. The main advantages to mediation are the cost as well as keeping the decision-making power between the spouses. One of the potential disadvantages is that resolution and settlement of issues fall on you and your spouse.
Option 2 – Arbitration
Arbitration is the next level up from mediation. It is recommended that both spouses retain their own, respective legal representation (a lawyer). Spouses and/or their lawyers can then determine which issues are within the scope of arbitration. While similar to mediation, instead of a mediator helping the parties reach a mutual agreement, an impartial arbitrator has the final responsibility and power to make decisions to resolve the issues.
Option 3 – Settlement Conferences
One effective step toward a resolution of your matter is to have a settlement conference with a judge present. The judge is there to review all of the information pertaining to your case and will provide assistance to you and your spouse in reaching an agreement on outstanding issues. The judge provides a valuable commentary on each party’s proposal and how things may play out in court if your matter goes to trial. If you are unable to reach a settlement and the matter proceeds to trial, the judge who presided over your settlement conference will not be the trial judge. Settlement conferences can also take place without a judge, between the parties and their lawyers.
Option 4 – Litigation & Trial
If the spouses cannot resolve all outstanding issues, then the divorce will go to trial, where a judge will make the final decision regarding any issues left unresolved. Divorces that proceed to trial can be costly and should, therefore, be a last resort.
Call a Divorce Lawyer at Norton Law
The family law department and divorce lawyers at Norton Law have decades of experience dealing with complicated legal issues relating to family law and divorce. We have a long history and track record for achieving successful outcomes for our clients.
Our primary objective is to best serve your interests and protect you and your family’s rights. Contact our team of British Columbia Divorce Lawyers to retain the legal representation that you deserve.