How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in Canada?

Did you know that some divorces in Canada last as long as three years?

That’s not the norm, but the truth is many divorces last longer than they have to. Once your separation year is up you can often finish in four to six months if you and your spouse can quickly agree to resolve the major issues of the case.

If you draw it out, drag it out, and take it into litigation it can last anywhere from 18 months to the aforementioned three years.

Here are a few more things you should know about divorce and timing in Canada.


How long after a divorce can you remarry in Canada?

You usually have to wait at least 31 days after the divorce decree is signed before you can be granted a new, legal marriage. You need to have your divorce certificate in-hand before you attempt another wedding.

Keep in mind that if you are receiving spousal support a remarriage would be good grounds for your ex to seek a modification order that might relieve them of the obligation to pay said support. After all, your new spouse should be supporting you instead.

If you have minor children, the home environment your new spouse provides could come under scrutiny if your ex chooses to try to modify the custody order as well. The judge must take the best interests of the children into account.

Be sure you understand the legal implications of marriage or cohabitation before you move forward. Modifications mean more time and court, and might make you feel like your divorce is lasting forever.


Ways to Speed Up a Divorce

There are a handful of solid steps that you can take to attempt to speed up a divorce.

Step #1 is to be fully prepared for the divorce. Gather all of your financial documentation before your first meeting with your attorney. This can include pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, investment account statements, deeds, bills, retirement account statements, and any other financial document which can help your attorney get a complete picture of assets and debts.

This step prevents the attorney from having to track down those documents later. It also makes it harder for your spouse to attempt to hide assets, if you happen to gather these documents before you announce that you want a divorce.

Step #2 is to seek a formalized separation agreement prior to your divorce. In most cases you’ll work out all the major issues of a divorce while negotiating a separation agreement. In many cases these agreements become the basis for an eventual divorce settlement.

Step #3 is to seek an amicable divorce. An amicable divorce is usually the fastest divorce you can get.

The key here is to jump yourself out of the mindset that says a divorce settlement exists to punish your spouse. Instead, the divorce settlement exists to help you make a business arrangement about dividing your property and managing your obligations to one another and your children.

If you can take emotion out of the process and negotiate your way to a settlement you’ll usually be better off. Ask your attorney for the best case scenario and the worst-case scenario. Your settlement should generally lie somewhere between those two extremes. Try to avoid unrealistic expectations, fear-based thinking, or revenge-based thinking. The law in Canada and in all of the provinces is designed to prevent major imbalances in divorce orders.

In addition, if you can get to an amicable settlement you will generally get better terms than you would get from the courts. You and your spouse are permitted to negotiate. A judge must use far more formulaic guidelines, and must do so without knowing very much at all about either one of you.

If you do take your divorce case all the way to trial you’ll have to wait for the court to set a date. You might have to return to court several times. The trial could drag on for some time as witnesses are called in and cross-examined. The trial itself adds a great deal more to the process.

Everyone has to set at least one hearing date, but in an amicable divorce the hearing lasts just long enough for the judge to verify that the divorce settlement adheres to Canadian divorce law and that the proposed child custody and child support arrangements are in the best interests of the child. The judge generally signs off on such orders quickly.


Do you really have to separate for one year before you can get a divorce?

In most cases, yes.

It is possible to end a relationship immediately if adultery exists, or if your spouse is being cruel to you. Proving it can be more difficult than you might imagine, and can make the process longer and more expensive than it has to be.

In addition, if you’re claiming adultery that means you have to prove you did not condone the adultery. If the court deems that you knew about the affair for some time but did nothing to stop it then you won’t be able to divorce any faster than any other couple would.

Note that you do not have to move out of the family home to separate. You can move into a different bedroom, stop sharing meals, and stop sharing social activities. In most cases this is enough to mark you as “separated.” Once you separate we recommend putting a separation agreement into place.


Get Help Today

We’ve helped thousands of Canadians navigate their divorce cases as quickly as possible.

We help clients in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. We’re known for being some of Canada’s savviest negotiators and toughest litigators. We’re also a full service law firm, which means you get the benefit of working with skilled attorneys who have a firm backing in real estate and business law. This allows us to come up with sophisticated legal solutions to your division of property and spousal support issues, and to preserve the value of your assets.

Contact Merchant Law to get started today.

About Donald I.M. Outerbridge

Donald became the Executive Director of Merchant Law Group LLP starting in 1993, nearly 30 years ago. His experience managing law firms at various levels and in multiple provinces across Canada goes back even further to 1981.