British Columbia is similar to a number of other provinces in Canada in terms of seeking a divorce. There is a process for sole applicants as well as joint applicants seeking an uncontested divorce in BC and another process for those seeking a contested divorce. You must be separated for at least one year to obtain a divorce in BC (this can be avoided if one or more spouses have committed adultery or have been mentally or physically cruel to the other). The provincial BC Supreme Court is the court in which you need to send your application.
How To File for Divorce in BC: Uncontested Divorce
Step 1: Will It Be A Sole or Joint Application?
The first step in an uncontested divorce is deciding if it will be a sole application or joint application as this will impact the paperwork and fees involved. A sole application is appropriate if you do not know if your spouse will respond to or fight your application once you file it. If only one party wants to be involved in the process then it will be a sole application and only that one spouse will fill out and sign the paperwork involved.
Please note that this is the only step if a joint application is considered as it clearly states both parties are aware of the divorce as well as agree to the terms set forth. If you are trying to work together but cannot come to a decision, then it becomes a contested divorce. Finally, if you submitted a sole application, then please proceed to reading step 2 to determine what to do next.
Step 2: Serve Your Spouse
Should you complete a sole application, then as well as submitted your forms to the BC Supreme Court, you will also be required to serve the forms to your spouse to ensure they are aware of the divorce application. It is important to note that you cannot serve the paperwork yourself and must have someone (i.e. a professional) serve them on your behalf. They will have the opportunity to ‘answer’ your documents and petition anything they do not agree with. Should this happen, proceed with the steps for a contested divorce. Otherwise, if they completely agree to all of the terms, then the will simply do nothing and let the process move forward on its own. They will have 30 days to answer your paperwork. If they agree, then move on to Step 3.
Step 3: Affidavit of Service
In order for the time to pass and move on with the uncontested divorce, you must prove to the courts that you served your spouse in the first place and that they had adequate time to respond. An Affidavit of Service is exactly what you will need to fill out to prove to the courts your spouse has been served. After another waiting period of 30 days, the courts will grant you a divorce should everything be in order and you will then need to wait for your divorce certificate to be officially divorced.
How To File for Divorce in BC: Contested Divorce
Step 1: Mediation
When there are contested terms involved in a divorce, most commonly involving children and money, then finding an agreement will often become far from rational but instead very emotional. Not often do spouses completely come to terms on their own. At this stage a mediator is recommended as they are often less expensive than a lawyer and are an independent third party that can help through the negotiation process. Should terms not reach an agreement with this method, a trial is often held within the courts.
Step 2: Trial and Legal Support
A judge will become involved should a divorce reach the stage of a trial and a lawyer is strongly recommended for this process if one is not already involved. Both parties should hire their own legal representation and they will present their arguments and let the judge come to a decision. Keep in mind first and foremost that the best interests of children are placed above all else.