Steps to File a Joint Divorce in Ontario

February 19, 2024

Deciding on a Joint Divorce

Understanding Joint Divorce

Definition of a Joint Divorce: A joint divorce, also known as an uncontested divorce, is a legal process where both spouses mutually agree to end their marriage and cooperate in resolving all related issues, such as asset division, spousal support, child custody, and child support. Unlike contested divorces, where spouses cannot agree on certain terms and must go through court proceedings to resolve disputes, a joint divorce involves a collaborative approach aimed at achieving a fair and amicable separation.

Criteria for Eligibility: In Ontario, certain criteria must be met for spouses to file for a joint divorce. These criteria typically include:

    • Both spouses must agree to the divorce and the terms of the divorce agreement.
    • There are no outstanding disputes regarding child custody, support, or property division.
    • The marriage is legally recognized in Ontario.
    • At least one spouse has been a resident of Ontario for at least one year prior to filing for divorce.

Mutual Agreement

Importance of Mutual Agreement: A key aspect of a joint divorce is the mutual agreement between both spouses to end the marriage and settle all associated matters. This agreement signifies a commitment to resolving issues cooperatively and minimizing conflict throughout the divorce process. It is essential for both parties to openly communicate and negotiate to reach a consensus on important issues such as asset division, spousal support, and child custody arrangements.

Consideration of Mediation or Legal Consultation: If there are unresolved issues or disagreements between spouses, seeking mediation or legal consultation can be beneficial. Mediation involves the assistance of a neutral third-party mediator who facilitates communication and helps spouses reach mutually acceptable solutions. Alternatively, each spouse may choose to consult with their respective Toronto family lawyers to understand their rights, responsibilities, and legal options. Legal professionals can provide guidance, negotiate on behalf of their clients, and ensure that any agreements reached are fair and legally binding.

Initiating the Joint Divorce Process

Gathering Necessary Documents

  1. Marriage Certificate: Obtain a copy of the marriage certificate, which serves as proof of the marriage and is required for the divorce application.
  2. Financial Information: Gather information regarding assets, liabilities, income, and expenses for both spouses. This information is necessary for determining the division of property and any spousal support obligations.

Completing the Joint Divorce Application

  1. Form 8A – Application (Divorce): Complete Form 8A, the application for divorce, providing details about the marriage, separation, and any relevant agreements between the spouses.
  2. Form 36 – Affidavit of Divorce: Each spouse must complete Form 36, an affidavit confirming the accuracy of the information provided in the divorce application.

Filing the Documents with the Court

  1. Filing Fees: Pay the required filing fees when submitting the completed divorce application and affidavit(s) to the Ontario Court of Justice or Superior Court of Justice.
  2. Serving the Documents: If both spouses are filing jointly, there is no requirement to formally serve the divorce application on the other spouse. However, if only one spouse is initiating the divorce, they must serve the application and affidavit on the other spouse in accordance with the rules of service.

Obtaining the Divorce Order

Waiting Period

Six-Month Waiting Period: After filing the divorce application, there is a mandatory waiting period of at least six months before a divorce can be finalized. This waiting period allows spouses time to consider reconciliation or address any outstanding issues.

Requesting a Divorce Order

Form 25A – Divorce Order: Once the waiting period has elapsed, either spouse can request a divorce order by completing Form 25A and submitting it to the court.

Attendance at Court: Depending on the court’s procedures, spouses may need to attend a court hearing to finalize the divorce or may receive the divorce order by mail.

Finalizing the Divorce

Divorce Certificate: Upon granting the divorce order, the court will issue a divorce certificate, officially recognizing the dissolution of the marriage.

Implementation of Agreements: Any agreements reached between spouses regarding property division, support, and custody are incorporated into the divorce order and become legally binding.

Preparing the Necessary Documentation

Completing the Application

Identification of Required Forms: The primary form needed for a joint divorce application in Ontario is Form 8A: Application for Divorce. This form serves as the official request to the court for a divorce and requires essential information about the marriage, separation, and any agreements between the spouses.

    • Form 8A: Application for Divorce: This form includes sections for providing details such as the names and addresses of the spouses, date and place of marriage, date of separation, and information about children (if applicable). Additionally, it allows spouses to indicate whether they are seeking orders for child support, spousal support, or custody/access.

Guidance on Completing the Documents:

    • Accuracy: It is crucial to ensure that all information provided on Form 8A is accurate and up-to-date. Any inaccuracies or omissions may delay the divorce process or lead to complications later on.
    • Clarity: Complete the form clearly and legibly, using black ink if completing it by hand. Follow the instructions provided on the form carefully to avoid errors.

Supporting Documents

List of Additional Documents Needed:

    • Marriage Certificate: A certified copy of the marriage certificate serves as proof of the marriage and must be included with the divorce application.
    • Separation Agreement: If the spouses have reached agreements on issues such as asset division, spousal support, or child custody, a copy of the signed separation agreement should be submitted with the divorce application. This document outlines the terms agreed upon by both parties and demonstrates their commitment to resolving matters amicably.
    • Financial Statements: Both spouses are required to provide financial information, including details of their income, assets, liabilities, and expenses. This information is essential for determining issues such as child support, spousal support, and property division.

  Instructions for Completing and Compiling Supporting Documents:

    • Obtaining Certified Copies: Ensure that all required documents, such as the marriage certificate and separation agreement, are certified copies. This typically involves obtaining copies from the appropriate issuing authority (e.g., the Office of the Registrar General for marriage certificates).
    • Completing Financial Statements: Each spouse should complete a Financial Statement (Form 13.1) or a Financial Statement (Form 13) depending on their income level. These forms require detailed information about sources of income, expenses, assets, and debts. It is essential to provide accurate and complete information to facilitate fair decisions regarding support and property division.
    • Compiling Documents: Organize all documents neatly and in the order specified by the court. Include a cover letter summarizing the contents of the application package for clarity.

Filing the Application

Where to File

Determining the Appropriate Court Location: The appropriate court location for filing a joint divorce application in Ontario is typically determined based on residency. If both spouses reside in the same jurisdiction, they should file their application at the family court or superior court in that jurisdiction. However, if the spouses reside in different jurisdictions, the application may be filed in either jurisdiction.

    • Residency Consideration: If there are children involved, the court location may also be determined based on where the children primarily reside. In cases where child custody or access arrangements are part of the divorce proceedings, it’s essential to file the application in the jurisdiction where the children reside to ensure the court’s jurisdiction over these matters.
    • Electronic Filing Options: Some courts in Ontario offer electronic filing options for divorce applications. Spouses should check the website of the relevant court or contact the court clerk to inquire about electronic filing procedures and requirements.

Payment of Fees

Overview of Filing Fees: Filing for a joint divorce in Ontario requires payment of certain fees to the court. The fees associated with a joint divorce application may vary depending on factors such as court jurisdiction and whether additional services, such as document certification or electronic filing, are requested.

    • Basic Filing Fee: The basic filing fee for a joint divorce application typically covers the processing of the application and initial court administrative costs. The amount of this fee may be subject to change, so spouses should verify the current fee schedule with the relevant court or consult the Ontario Court’s website.

Methods of Payment Accepted by Ontario Courts: Ontario courts typically accept various methods of payment for filing fees, including:

    • Cash: Some court locations may accept cash payments for filing fees. Spouses should confirm with the court clerk whether cash payments are accepted and any specific procedures for paying in cash.
    • Credit/Debit Card: Many courts accept credit or debit card payments for filing fees. Spouses can provide their card details at the time of filing or may be directed to make payments through an online portal or over the phone.
    • Cheque or Money Order: Spouses can also pay filing fees by cheque or money order made payable to the Minister of Finance. It’s essential to include the appropriate reference information, such as the court file number or case number, on the payment instrument to ensure proper allocation of the payment.
    • Online Payment: Some courts may offer online payment options through secure payment portals on their websites. Spouses should check the court’s website for information on online payment methods and procedures.
    • Fee Waivers: In cases of financial hardship, spouses may be eligible for fee waivers or reductions. Eligibility criteria and application procedures for fee waivers vary by court jurisdiction, so spouses should inquire with the court clerk or seek legal advice if they believe they qualify for fee assistance.

Serving the Documents

Requirement Waiver

  1. Explanation of Waiver: In a joint divorce proceeding in Ontario, the requirement to serve the divorce application and related documents on the other party is typically waived. Unlike in contested divorces, where formal service of documents is necessary to ensure that both parties are aware of the proceedings and have an opportunity to respond, joint divorces proceed on the basis of mutual agreement and cooperation between the spouses.
    • Mutual Agreement: By filing for a joint divorce, both parties explicitly consent to the divorce and any associated terms or agreements. This mutual agreement serves as confirmation that both spouses are fully aware of the divorce proceedings and have willingly participated in the decision to dissolve the marriage.
  2. Confirmation of Joint Filing as Consent: The act of jointly filing for divorce serves as confirmation of consent by both parties to the divorce process and its terms. By submitting the joint divorce application to the court, spouses affirm their agreement to the divorce and any agreements reached regarding issues such as asset division, spousal support, and child custody.
    • Legal Acknowledgment: The joint filing of the divorce application signifies that both spouses have acknowledged and accepted the terms outlined in the application, including any provisions for financial support, child care arrangements, and the division of marital assets.
    • Waiver of Formal Service: In waiving the requirement for formal service of documents, both parties acknowledge that they have received and reviewed the divorce application and related documents and have no objections to the contents thereof.
    • Efficiency and Cooperation: By waiving the requirement for formal service, joint divorces promote efficiency and cooperation in the divorce process. Spouses can avoid the time, effort, and potential conflict associated with formal service of documents, allowing them to focus on reaching a fair and amicable resolution to their divorce proceedings.

Waiting for the Court’s Response

Review Period

  1. Typical Timelines: After filing a joint divorce application in Ontario, the court typically requires time to review and process the application. While the specific timelines may vary depending on factors such as court caseload and administrative procedures, spouses can generally expect the court to review the application within a few weeks to a few months.
    • Approximate Timeline: On average, it may take anywhere from four to eight weeks for the court to review and process a joint divorce application. However, this timeline can vary, and spouses should be prepared for potential delays.
  2. Possibility of Additional Information: During the review process, the court may request additional information or documentation from the spouses if necessary. This could include clarification on certain aspects of the application, additional financial information, or documentation related to agreements reached between the parties.
    • Prompt Response: Spouses should promptly respond to any requests for additional information from the court to avoid unnecessary delays in the processing of their divorce application.

Attending a Hearing (if required)

  1. Circumstances Requiring a Hearing: In some cases, the court may require spouses to attend a hearing as part of the divorce process. While joint divorces are typically straightforward and do not require a hearing, certain circumstances may necessitate judicial review or clarification of specific issues.
    • Complex or Contested Issues: If there are complex or contested issues related to the divorce, such as disagreements over child custody arrangements or the division of significant assets, the court may schedule a hearing to address these matters.
    • Concerns Raised by the Court: If the court has concerns about the fairness or legality of the agreements reached by the spouses, it may require a hearing to ensure that the divorce settlement is equitable and in compliance with Ontario family law.
  2. Preparing for a Hearing:
    • Legal Representation: Spouses may choose to retain legal representation to represent their interests at the hearing. A qualified family law lawyer can provide guidance, prepare legal arguments, and advocate on behalf of their clients during the proceedings.
    • Gathering Evidence: Spouses should gather any relevant evidence or documentation to support their positions on contested issues. This may include financial records, communication logs, or witness statements.
    • Understanding Court Procedures: Familiarize yourself with the court procedures and expectations for the hearing. Spouses should arrive on time, dress appropriately, and address the court respectfully.
    • Be Prepared to Negotiate: In some cases, a hearing provides an opportunity for spouses to negotiate and potentially resolve outstanding issues with the assistance of a mediator or through direct discussions facilitated by their lawyers.

Receiving the Final Judgment

Divorce Order

  1. Notification and Receipt of the Divorce Order: After the court reviews the joint divorce application and any associated documents, and if satisfied with the terms and agreements presented, it will issue a divorce order. Typically, the court will notify the spouses or their legal representatives of the issuance of the divorce order. The spouses will then receive a copy of the divorce order by mail or through their legal representatives.
  2. Explanation of the Document and its Implications: The divorce order is a legal document issued by the court that officially terminates the marriage between the spouses. It confirms that all necessary legal requirements for divorce have been met, and the marriage is dissolved as of the date specified in the order. The divorce order may also incorporate any agreements reached between the spouses regarding issues such as property division, spousal support, and child custody, making these agreements legally binding.
    • Implications: Upon receipt of the divorce order, the marriage is legally dissolved, and both spouses are free to remarry if they choose. Additionally, any terms or agreements outlined in the divorce order must be followed by both parties, as they are enforceable under Ontario family law.

Certificate of Divorce

  1. Steps to Obtain the Certificate of Divorce: Once the divorce order is final, spouses can apply for a Certificate of Divorce from the court. The Certificate of Divorce is an official document issued by the court that serves as legal proof of the divorce.
    • Application Process: To obtain the Certificate of Divorce, spouses must complete an application form, typically available from the court clerk’s office or the court’s website. The application requires basic information about the marriage and the divorce order, such as the names of the spouses, the date of the divorce order, and the court file number.
    • Filing the Application: Spouses must submit the completed application form, along with any required supporting documents and the applicable fee, to the court where the divorce was granted. The court will process the application and issue the Certificate of Divorce once all requirements are met.
  2. Importance of the Certificate for Legal Proof of Divorce: The Certificate of Divorce is a vital document that serves as legal proof of the divorce. It may be required for various purposes, including:
    • Remarriage: Spouses who wish to remarry must provide a Certificate of Divorce as proof that their previous marriage has been legally dissolved.
    • Legal Proceedings: The Certificate of Divorce may be needed for legal proceedings involving matters such as property ownership, estate planning, or child custody, to demonstrate the marital status of the parties involved.
    • Government Agencies: Government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration or Immigration authorities, may require a Certificate of Divorce as part of their processes for updating records or granting benefits.
    • Personal Records: Spouses may also wish to retain a copy of the Certificate of Divorce for their personal records as documentation of their marital status.

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