The current metrics on divorce, courtesy of StatsCan, show some interesting trends and significant shifts in the marriage arena indicating that many people ‘out there’ would likely benefit from clear and useful information about divorce in Ontario. Unless of course, you happen to be King Henry VIII wanting to get rid of wife Catherine and marry sister Anne, in which case there’s no problem: separate from the Roman Catholic church, declare yourself supreme head of the Church of England and force the Archbishop of Canterbury to grant your divorce. Easy!
Ontario Court Forms: on-line forms for divorce
In Canada and Ontario, we are governed by the Divorce Act of Canada (1985) which, for the most part, serves us well. There are certain forms to fill out and rules to follow, neither of which Henry troubled himself with.
But first things first. Let’s make sure we understand what legal marital status is; it is defined as being one of the following: never married, married, divorced, separated, or widowed. Although statistics show a decline in marriage since the 1980s, in Ontario 50.3% of the population over 15 years of age is, or was, married. Even at only 50%, this resulted in 26,577 Ontario divorces in 2001, the last year for which information is available. (This figure is generally believed to be stable over the years.)
In Canada, and likely similar for Ontario, almost 38% of marriages end in divorce prior to their 30th anniversary. This is actually an improvement from the 1980s, when fully one of every two marriages ended in divorce. Still, 38% translates to divorce in almost four for every ten marriages. That’s a great many people needing to deal with the complexity of divorce and the decisions which accompany it involving:
- spousal support
- child support
- child custody
- division of marriage assets, especially…
- the matrimonial home
But the surprise is, according to the Ontario government, that approximately 20%, or one in five of the fifty and older age group are divorcing, and the trend is rising, given that this rate is three times what it was only thirty years ago.
The main concern for younger, divorcing couples who are likely to have children is that of child support and custody. On the other hand, couples married for thirty years are more likely to have grown children, and at the same time, have had opportunity to accumulate family resources; accordingly, their major concern might be the division of the marriage assets such as pensions, RRSPs and perhaps a family cottage. The point is that there is no one-size solution for everyone.
If you find yourself in such unfamiliar waters, wondering where to begin, then start with either Service Canada’s website or, if you are an Ontario resident, that of the Ontario government. Our legal system is supportive, providing extensive, resources and help. Visit the Ontario government website, and download a pamphlet titled, What You Should Know about Family Law in Ontario, available in 9 languages. Here’s a sample of its plain language and non-threatening approach:
Your local family court can also be a good place to go for
more information. These courts offer information sessions on
issues affecting separating families. Family courts have Family
Law Information Centres that provide a range of information and
As the booklet states, these centres (FLICS) provide free information about divorce, separation and related family law issues as well as guides to court procedures. Staff and lawyers to provide advice are available at designated hours.
Uncontested divorce in Ontario
One of the first things you’ll discover is that divorce doesn’t necessarily entail going to court. Much depends on your joint ability to work out satisfactory arrangements. If you need help, professional mediators are available; also, the courts can assign a mediator if you wish. Whereas the recommendations of the mediator are non-binding, this is not the case for arbitration. Because its decisions are obligatory, both parties must first agree to be bound by the arbitrator’s decisions. And finally, in a process called Collaborative Family Law, each party has a lawyer; the lawyers attempt to negotiate a resolution which will again avoid going to court. Both parties and the lawyers sign a commitment to the process in advance.
Couples who decide to go to court (with or without having tried the above options) should obtain a second booklet, A guide to Procedures in Family Court, easily downloaded from this website: www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/family/guides/fc. As you will learn, in order to proceed to court, the Ontario government requires that you complete the necessary application forms. These also are provided at Ontario’s website. See Family Law Rules Forms at www.ontariocourtforms.on.ca. Here, you’ll see a list of forms; scroll down until you reach Divorce Forms. The exact web address for the English application form is www.ontariocourtforms.on.ca/english/family. In what is termed a simple divorce, one party starts the divorce proceedings; in a joint divorce, as the name suggests, both parties initiate the divorce.
Getting help with divorce forms
If you’d like help with these forms, the government actually provides that as well. Visit the Ontario Court Forms Assistant and the program will ask you a series of questions, then use your responses to complete the form. Print the completed form and file it at an Ontario courthouse to initiate your divorce.
Where can you find the courthouses?
Addresses are available at: www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/courts/Court_Addresses/default.asp. Enter your municipality and “family court” and you’ll see the court addresses. Here in Toronto, as the webpage shows, there are three courts: one at 311 Jarvis St, a second at 47 Sheppard Ave. East and the third at 393 University Ave. -10th Fl.
Before you set off, you might keep in mind the advice on the Assistant’s website:
The Assistant does not provide legal advice. You may wish to speak with a lawyer for advice about your case and for help in completing the court forms. If you cannot afford the services of a lawyer, the Family Law Information Centres might be able to direct you to legal aid services.
As a Family Law practitioner and member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, I offer a free, half an hour consultation. My goal is to provide all of my clients with the most effective legal service I can, whether that means recommending arbitration or going to court. Good legal advice begins with a lawyer who will listen to you. To begin, please call Howard Nightingale at 1 877 224-8225 or 416 663 4423, or visit my website at www.howardnightingale.com