You may have heard
something in the news recently about a "new" requirement that in
each party must attend a mandatory
information program / session before filing for divorce. The news is
inaccurate and misleading: First, it is not a new rule. The rule has
been in effect in Toronto for many years and more recently in
Brampton and Milton. It became 'new' for the rest of
Ontario on December 1, 2011. Second, and most importantly, the requirement
does NOT apply to
'simple' divorces. It only applies if you are asking for something
in addition to divorce (such as spousal support, child
custody/access support, division of property, etc.). It also does
not apply to joint
divorces. Also, it is not
mandatory mediation nor do both spouses have to attend together.
According to Family Law Rule 8.1, the mandatory information
program provides participants with information about
separation and the legal process, and may include information on
topics such as, (a) the options available for resolving differences,
including alternatives to going to court; (b) the impact the
separation of parents has on children; and (c) resources available
to deal with problems arising from separation. It is
not a mandatory
mediation session with your spouse.
Again, you only have to
attend the session if you are asking for something in addition to
divorce, such as spousal support, child custody/access/support,
division of property, equalization of net family property, etc.
However, if it is a joint divorce, you do not have to attend.
If you are the one filing the divorce, your spouse would only
have to attend a (separate) session if he or she contests your
claims or makes his or her own claims. If your spouse does not contest
the divorce and does not attend an information session, your claims
may still proceed as ‘uncontested’. You won’t be prevented from
getting a divorce simply because your spouse does not attend a
Unfortunately, the press got this story so
wrong that they have caused a bit of panic in people who are
thinking about filing for divorce.