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Free information about divorce in Canada - Going to court, alternatives and collaborative law



Free information about Divorce in Canada


  1. What alternatives are there to going to court?

  2. What is Collaborative Law?

  3. What if my former spouse is not obeying the court order or divorce judgment?

  4. How can I get a court order changed?

What alternatives are there to going to court?

Not many parents go to trial about custody. Proceedings can be expensive and stressful both for you and for the children. You have choices other than going to court to reach agreements on parenting arrangements.

  • You can go to a family mediator. A mediator is generally a person with a legal or social work background who has special training in helping people resolve disputes. A mediator works with both of you and helps you discuss and decide on the arrangements for your children. Click her for links to mediators.

  • You can meet with a lawyer who will explain your legal rights and obligations and help you negotiate an agreement.

  • You can meet with a family therapist, child psychologist, social worker, family doctor or other professional who knows about the effects of separation and divorce on children of different ages.

  • Another alternative is to use a service like ezdivorce.ca/, which assists couples or individuals with filing their own simple divorce (uncontested divorce) or joint divorce in Canada.

Many courts now offer parent-education sessions, which present options for settling the issues you face upon separation and divorce. These sessions also discuss the impact of separation and divorce on children.

What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative Family Law is a cooperative approach to negotiating and settling the issues arising from separation outside of court. Separated spouses, with the assistance of specially trained family law lawyers, negotiate their issues, as they define them, in a controlled, safe, and respectful setting. These structured negotiations happen in meetings between the spouses and their lawyers. These meetings allow the spouses to explore their issues together, as they define them. The lawyers act both as communication/negotiation coaches for their clients, and simultaneously fulfill their usual role of advising their clients about their legal rights, entitlements and obligations. The parties focus on effectively communicating to gather facts and discover each other's interests. Emotional tactics, threats, or abusive communications are all identified, discussed and eliminated. The lawyers, having agreed to not take part in any litigation that may occur if an agreement isn't reached, efficiently focus their time and effort solely on settlement, rather than posturing or preparing documents or themselves for court. Everyone, including the lawyers, are focused on creating together a stable, fair, legal separation agreement.

Click here for links to local collaborative lawyers.


What if my former spouse is not obeying the court order or divorce judgment?

Your divorce judgment may include court orders dealing with parenting, child support and spousal support. Both parents must obey these orders. When one parent does not, the other parent can take action. Here are two examples.

When you have a right to see your child but, for no good reason, your former spouse will not allow it, you can go back to court to ask for help. A judge may set out a very specific schedule for access or grant extra time to make up for the visits you missed. You could also ask the judge to change the parenting arrangements.

When your spouse is supposed to pay child or spousal support under a court order, but is not paying, enforcement offices will help you collect the money. All provinces and territories have these offices.

To find out how you can get help dealing with these situations, get in touch with your local court or family law information office, the support enforcement program in your province or territory, or a lawyer.

How can I get a court order changed?

The divorce judgment legally ends your marriage and you cannot change that. But sometimes you may need to change other parts of the judgment, such as the child's residential schedule or child or spousal support. You may ask a judge to change an order for custody when there has been a significant change in the condition, means, needs or other circumstances of the child and/or yourself or the other parent since the last order was made. You may ask a judge to change an order for child support if:

  • the special expenses of the child change;

  • your income or your former spouse's income changes; and/or

  • there are other significant changes in your circumstances or those of your former spouse or the children.

In a few situations you may also change a spousal support order.

If you and your former spouse agree about what needs to be changed, you can file the application form with the court and the judge will consider and, most likely, approve the change. This is called a consent order, because both you and your former spouse consented to it. Where child support is involved, the judge continues to have an obligation to ensure that a reasonable amount of support (in light of the child support guidelines) is agreed to.

If you cannot agree, you can go back to court, present your case and ask a judge to make a new order.


Divorce in Canada
Divorce in Canada and Children/Child Support
Divorce in Canada and going to court and alternatives

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Last updated on January 1, 2019