Vancouver Divorce Lawyers
Divorce proceedings involve many complex legal and financial considerations, including support, property division, and parental arrangements. These issues are time-sensitive and can be complicated by the highly emotional nature of a marriage breakdown.
At Meridian Law Group, our attentive family lawyers navigate clients through the divorce process by providing trustworthy advice and personalized legal solutions that meet their needs. Our goal is to empower clients to make informed decisions and help them adjust to a changing family dynamic after separation.
Grounds for Divorce
In order to obtain a divorce, the federal Divorce Act requires a couple to demonstrate that there has been a “breakdown of the marriage”. This can be established in three ways, although the most common is for spouses to live separate and apart.
Living “Separate and Apart”
Most divorces in Canada are granted after a couple has lived separate and apart for at least one year before applying for a divorce.
What qualifies as living “separate and apart” will vary by each family’s circumstances. It does not necessarily require a couple to move into separate homes but instead involves consideration of several factors to determine whether they live their lives independently. For example, a couple may choose to live in the same house post-separation for financial purposes but no longer spend time together, socialize at the same events, or sleep in the same room.
An act of infidelity by one spouse may be used to establish a breakdown of the marriage. The adultery may be raised only by the spouse who did not commit the adultery and must be proven to the court. In practice, adultery is rarely relied upon as grounds for divorce in Canada as it is burdensome to prove and exacerbates the conflict between the parties, who may need to remain in contact post-divorce (particularly if they have children together).
As with adultery, cruelty is emotionally taxing to prove and can significantly complicate the divorce process. The cruelty in question must be so severe that it creates unbearable trauma to the victim spouse’s mental or physical health, to the point that it would be impossible to continue living together.
Contested vs. Uncontested (Desk-Order) Divorce in British Columbia
Contested divorces are those where the spouses cannot agree on one or more matters at issue between them. This may include parental issues (including parental or decision-making responsibility and parenting time), disputes over support obligations, or property division.
By contract, uncontested divorces involve no unresolved issues between the spouses. As uncontested divorces in British Columbia don’t require the parties to appear in court, they are often called “desk-order” divorces.
Dispute Resolution in the Divorce Process
A couple is required to resolve all outstanding disputes before a divorce order can be granted by the court. Both the federal Divorce Act and British Columbia’s Family Law Act require parties to attempt alternative dispute resolution processes such as negotiation, mediation, or arbitration, before resorting to litigation in court. Once an agreement is reached, it is put into writing (sometimes as part of a separation agreement) and may be incorporated into the final divorce order.
In British Columbia, parties can apply to the Provincial Court for an order resolving unresolved matters aside from property division. In some cases, it is easier and more cost-effective to handle as many issues as possible in the Provincial Court and then apply to the Supreme Court of British Columbia to finalize any undetermined property matters. Only the Supreme Court can grant the divorce order.
Contrary to how they may be portrayed on film and TV, a couple’s eligibility to obtain an annulment is entirely unrelated to the length of their marriage. Annulments can only be granted where a marriage was legally invalid from the outset.
Some examples of situations where an annulment may be granted include those where one or both spouses:
- Lacked the mental capacity to get married;
- Were already married to someone else;
- Lacked the ability to consent to the marriage. For example, one spouse was a minor and got married without parental permission, or a spouse was intoxicated at the time of the marriage ceremony;
- Are too closely related to each other, either by blood or adoption; or
- Were forced into the marriage through fraud or threats (under duress).
These examples are not exhaustive, and each case depends on its own circumstances.
Effect of an Annulment
Parties seeking an annulment must apply to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. As strict proof is required to establish an entitlement to an annulment, it may be more complicated than obtaining a regular divorce.
If granted, the annulment invalidates the marriage from the start, and it is as if the marriage never existed. However, an annulment does not cancel a spouse’s potential claims under the Family Law Act (for example, for support or property division). This is because the parties, while never validly married, may still qualify as common-law spouses under British Columbia’s family law.
Contact Meridian Law Group in Vancouver for Skilled, Client-Driven Divorce Services
The seasoned family lawyers of Meridian Law Group provide trustworthy, comprehensive advice and advocacy to clients throughout the divorce process. The firm aims to resolve family matters swiftly and with minimal conflict while always incorporating a legal strategy to position the client for success in any legal forum, including negotiation, mediation, arbitration, or trial.
Meridian Law Group handles the heavy lifting of the legal process so clients can focus on moving forward and adjusting to their new family dynamic. Located conveniently in downtown Vancouver, the firm represents clients in West Vancouver, North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Penticton, Kelowna, Richmond, New Westminster, Burnaby, Surrey, Langley, and White Rock. To speak with an experienced family lawyer or arrange a confidential consultation, please call (604) 687-2277 or reach out online.