Contact a lawyer now

What is the Divorce Process in Alberta

What is the Divorce Process in Alberta

Clients are often caught off guard to discover that divorce never happens fast. It’s an entire process that can take months to complete.

Here’s everything you need to know about what to expect throughout the divorce process.


How Do I Prepare For a Divorce in Alberta?

Start by gathering up all of your financial data, and your spouse’s. This means:

  • Tax returns
  • Pay stubs
  • Bank statements
  • Retirement and investment account statements
  • Insurance policies
  • Titles and deeds
  • Lists of debts and bills

Asset and debt division are a big part of every divorce settlement, as are maintenance payments. Giving your lawyer a full and clear understanding of your financial situation means that your first meeting can be as productive as possible.

Once you’ve gathered this data, choose a lawyer. Consult with your lawyer before you do anything else. 


How Do I Start a Divorce in Alberta? 

In order to start a divorce you must be legally separated for one year. You can circumvent this waiting period by proving that adultery or cruelty were taking place, but only if you can prove either one. In addition, if you are using an adultery claim to divorce earlier you must prove you did not “condone” the adultery in words or action.

If you are going to be legally separating, a separation agreement can help codify who will pay what bills, how co-parenting will work during the separation, and more. Be aware that neither you nor your spouse must move out of the marital home to be separated, and moving out could be a serious tactical error. Speak to your lawyer before making any major moves.

Once you qualify for the divorce, you will then file a Statement of Claim for Divorce with the Clerk of the Court of Queen’s Bench. You will need to pay a filing fee at that time. 


How Long Does a Divorce Take in Alberta?

It can take 6 to 8 months to get all the way to the divorce process. This includes all the time between serving the divorce to finalizing the divorce in court.

During this time both parties will typically go through a discovery and negotiation process. 

Uncontested divorces move a lot faster.


How Can I Get an Uncontested Divorce in Alberta?

When you file your Statement of Claim for Divorce you will make your first proposal for a settlement offer. That is, you’ll make a request that property, assets, and debts be decided a certain way. You’ll make a maintenance proposal, outlining who you think should pay maintenance and how much should be paid (maintenance includes both child support and spousal support). You’ll lay out a proposed custody and visitation arrangement as well.

If your spouse agrees to your terms they have only to sign off on the paperwork and you’ll have an uncontested divorce. If they don’t, they have a certain period of time to file their answer to the Statement of Claim. This answer serves as a counter-offer. You can either accept their counter-offer or reject it.

The moment there is any disagreement on any of the major issues of the divorce you and your lawyers will need to enter into the discovery and negotiation process with your spouse’s divorce lawyer. 


What Happens During The Discovery and Negotiation Process?

Discovery is an exchange of information about assets, debts, and finances. If there is a custody battle brewing then it may also include information about the relationship that you had with your children, such as evidence that one parent spent more time going to doctor’s appointments and school meetings than others. If one parent is now living with another adult romantically then that information might be brought before the court as well.

The negotiation process is an attempt to come to an amicable divorce settlement outside of court. This is usually more advantageous and less expensive for both parties than attempting divorce litigation. 


Do All Divorces Go To Divorce Court?

All divorce settlements must be reviewed by a family court judge to ensure that they comply with the law. For example, if you have minor children a judge will not approve a settlement that does not include child support.

However, all divorces do not enter the litigation process. Most are resolved through negotiation, mediation, or the collaborative divorce process long before they go to trial. 

Avoiding litigation is usually the most advantageous course for divorcing couples. The judge does not know your family and does not have a lot of time to get familiar with the case. Judges sometimes get impatient with couples or with any litigant who looks like they’ve been drawing out the process. They may award assets simply because they feel like one spouse has been abusing the process, for example, or may make rapid-fire assumptions about what’s going on that don’t lead to a fair or workable outcome. All of this can happen even if you have a top-notch divorce lawyer working for you because the courts are unpredictable.

Judges don’t really like to see divorce cases enter litigation either. They’ve been known to order couples to try alternative dispute resolution first. Even in the minds of the court’s litigation should be a last-ditch alternative to working out an amicable settlement. 


What Happens When The Divorce Gets Finalized?

Once you have a court order sealing your divorce you will begin executing the order. Your marriage will be dissolved on the day the judge signs the order. You’ll receive copies of the order which you can use to change your last name if necessary, enter into Alberta’s Maintenance Enforcement Program, and take other actions which might be required.

It will be up to both members of the couple to execute the order. For example, if one spouse has been awarded the family home then the other spouse must move out if they haven’t already. If one spouse has been awarded a portion of the retirement accounts then the other must share the court order with their plan administrator so the proper steps must be taken. If the courts have ordered the parents to share joint custody of the children then the kids must be at the appropriate homes at the appropriate times throughout the life of the divorce order.

Following the court order is not always easy, but failing to do so puts you in contempt of court and can jeopardize your freedom. While the courts have access to many remedies they can eventually jail someone who does not comply with their divorce order.

Fortunately, in many cases, the terms of the divorce order are often similar to the terms of the separation agreement, which means you may have already been living under those terms or close to those terms for almost two years. This is especially true when you involve a lawyer in the separation agreement process, even prior to filing formal divorce papers.


Why Trust Us? 

We have decades of experience handling tough divorce cases. Our team specializes in complex high net worth cases, business owner cases, entrepreneur cases, and farm divorces. We’re tough negotiators and fearless litigators who never stop looking out for your best interests.

We’ll help you fight for a fair divorce settlement. Call (587) 689-3333 to get matched with one of our top-notch divorce lawyers today.