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Many Canadians prepare and file their divorce papers without using a lawyer. If you choose to do your own divorce, remember that divorce law can be complicated and you will need to pay attention to detail and complete the forms correctly. This article originally appeared as a chapter in the book, Divorce Guide for Canada, written for Self-Counsel Press by lawyer Alison Sawyer, BA, LLB.
Doing your own divorce without legal advice or the help of a lawyer is best done under these circumstances:
- The ground for divorce is that you have been living separate and apart for at least one year. In some provinces and territories, you will not be able to apply for an affidavit divorce if you use any other ground.
- There are no dependent children.
- Neither spouse needs financial support from the other.
- All property (i.e., personal goods, vehicles, money, debts, RRSPs, pensions, and real estate) has been divided and both spouses are happy with the property settlement.
- You only need to ask the court to make an order for the divorce itself.
If you have children under the age of majority and have yet to make decisions about financial matters, you will still be in a good position to do your own divorce if you and your spouse have —
- signed a separation agreement, or
have a court order dealing with child custody, access, and support and/or division of property, or
- have come to an agreement about any or all of these matters.
If you are financially self-sufficient, have no children dependant on you, or your spouse has been paying child support and is in agreement with the custody and support arrangements you are asking to be put in the Divorce Order, you can proceed with an affidavit divorce.
You will have to file enough information with the court (ideally in the form of a separation agreement or consent court order) to satisfy the judge that the arrangements are reasonable and appropriate. In some jurisdictions in this situation, you may still have to appear in front of a judge to get your Divorce Order.