How long does it take to get divorced
The first questions many family lawyers are asked by their clients are, “How long does the divorce process take?” and, “When will I be divorced?” Well, there is a more short and theoretical answer and a longer, more complex one. I have included both here for you below.
1. The Short Answer to the Divorce Process:
The Alberta Rules of Court and the Divorce Act outline minimum filing dates and the time expected between the steps to divorce. In most occurrences, the parties will need to be separated for one year before finalizing a divorce. For filing and serving a Statement of Claim, the other party has 20 days to respond if they are in Alberta, one month if they are in Canada but outside of Alberta, and two months if they are outside of Canada. Once the parties are ready to complete the Divorce Package, consisting of an Affidavit of Applicant, Request for Divorce and a Divorce Judgment, they should expect between eight to 10 weeks for a filed package to be returned. Thirty-one days after a Divorce Judgment is filed, the parties can request a Certificate of Divorce.
These are of course the fastest and most theoretical dates if everything is as simple as it gets (e.g. division of property is clear, no children involved etc.) and neither party makes a fuss. But in many cases, there can be hiccups along the way that can lengthen the time it takes to get your divorce finalized.
2. The Long Answer to Getting a Divorce:
Due to the many factors at play, there can be many delays in the divorce process that make it impossible to give you a solid date you will be divorced by. Here are some reasons for delays in finalizing divorces:
- Complexity of your family matter: Just like in any legal case, the simpler the case, the faster it can be processed. For example, an uncontested Divorce is processed much faster. Also referred to as a Desk Divorce, an uncontested Divorce is where the parties have consented to all the terms for the division of property and/or support matters, and no children are involved. However, if the division isn’t 100% clear and there are children involved, there are extra steps the clerks need to take to ensure the division of property and child support totals are correct.
- Going to Court: If the parenting, the property, and even service of documents cannot be agreed to, each issue will end up in the Court system with the parties litigating every step. Going to court equals more time, as Court dates need to be set (often at least weeks in advance) and attended by all parties.
- If the other party/lawyer is slow to respond, then this is going to cause delay: I often say that the divorce goes as slow as the slowest party. This means if someone is failing to negotiate or even respond, we will need the Court to intervene. Court orders can be obtained to compel disclosure or have parties respond to documents, but each application requires us to go to the overloaded Court to push the process ahead. Sometimes it is your own lawyer who can be the cause of the delay for normal reasons such as vacation, illness or file management.
- If the client is not cooperative: When we ask for your disclosure documents, for a client to take the Parenting After Separation Course, or to review an affidavit, your lawyer cannot proceed with the next step until you have completed your task.
It is always prudent to have an open conversation with your Family Lawyer to find out the exact reason behind the delays in your matter. One of the methods I use to prevent delays (namely the Court and complexity of matters) is to recommend mediation, arbitration and collaborative practices to my clients. Court houses are busy and over-crowded, and Alberta has the fewest Queen’s Bench judges per capita of any province or territory in Canada, so any instance where we can avoid going to court will not only expedite your divorce process, but most likely also result in a more satisfactory process and result in the end.