Alberta Gets Divorce Right

After numerous telephone calls and emails (by us and to us), I was very pleased to report earlier today that the Alberta authorities have done the right thing and granted a “grace period” extending to the end of December, for people in the province to use the “pre November 2010” forms in their divorce applications.

As I said in my previous post on this topic, this is an important decision. Divorce, even when uncontested and agreed between two consenting adults, is never an easy process. Federal and provincial rules require the applicants to produce legal documents, fill-in some fairly long forms, and then make a courthouse (rgeistry) filing of the paperwork. Not something you get done in a free hour after dinner.

For most of the many divorce applicants we have spoken with over the years, the gathering of information and completion of the paperwork takes quite a lot of time. Bear in mind, this is a time when both parties to the application are very likely unhappy and stressed — for whatever reason, they feel their marriage cannot be sustained and needs to be undone.

The BC Precedent

When British Columbia changed its procedures and paperwork for uncontested divorces on July 1st this year, the provincial government legal department did everything wrong:

  • There was no grace period. New forms were required immediately.
  • No one had the new forms because the department web server failed.
  • Registry staff, already stressed, became more so when consumers got angry. Scenes in the registries were not pretty.

In the BC changeover, we fielded hundreds of telephone calls about the new forms. Not only consumers were calling — we got calls from lawyers, notaries, and even registry office staff, all asking if we had the new forms because it seemed no one else did. We patiently explained to callers what had happened, and suggested they contact the Ministry of the Attorney General in Victoria, where the mess originated. I believe the government of BC lost a lot of votes in July.

Alberta Avoids the BC Mistake

By announcing there will be a grace period in which current forms may be used, the Alberta legal system has done the right thing, even if they could have done it weeks ago and saved a lot of people a lot of worry.

I hope other provinces see what the two western provinces have done, and when they next make changes (whether to divorce, or probate, or other processes requiring lots of paperwork from consumers), they follow the example of Alberta.

Finally, a personal thank you to the officials in Alberta who have worked with us through the past week and weekend to influence the process in favour of consumers. You know who you are and your caring for tax-paying consumers is both commendable and the right attitude.

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