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How do I apply for a divorce with my partner?

If you're married and want to legally end your marriage, you must apply for a divorce from the court.

If you both agree to get a divorce, you can apply together by making a joint application.

If only one of you wants a divorce, that person can apply by themselves.

To get a divorce in Ontario, you must meet certain conditions. For example, you and your partner must have had a marriage ceremony and you must show that your marriage has ended. If you don't meet them, the court may not approve your divorce application.

Religious divorce

A religious divorce doesn't legally end a marriage. But some religions require a religious divorce if you want to remarry within that religion.

The courts do not grant a religious divorce. You have to get that through your place of worship or religious organization. For example, a Jewish religious divorce is called a get.

Matrimonial home

If you separate, each married partner has an equal right to stay in the matrimonial home and to claim a share in the value of the home. It doesn't matter who owns the home. You don't give up these rights if you decide to move out.

If you get divorced and you were not on title to the matrimonial home, you're no longer considered a married partner with an equal right to stay in the matrimonial home. But, this doesn't affect your right to a share in the value of the home.

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1. Decide whether to apply for a divorce only or add other issues

Before you apply to the court for a divorce, you have to decide whether to ask the court for:

  • a divorce only, or
  • a divorce and other things like custody, access, child support, spousal support, and dividing property.

You don't have to go to court and get a court order to deal with these other issues like custody, access, child support, spousal support, and dividing property. You can deal with your family law issues by making a separation agreement or by getting help from a family law professional like a mediator.

But some people choose to ask the court to deal with their family law issues when they apply for a divorce. This might be because:

  • You want a court order you can enforce.
  • You don't think you can make an agreement with your partner, with or without the help of a lawyer or family law professional.
  • There is a history of partner abuse, mental illness, or drug abuse.

There is no time limit to get a divorce. But there are time limits for other claims. For example, you have six years from the date you separate or two years from the date of your divorce to make a claim to divide property.

2. Fill out your forms

Use Form 8A: Application (Divorce) if you and your partner are applying for a divorce together. You can also use this form to apply for other orders together if you agree on other issues like custody, access, child support, spousal support, and dividing property.

You can get family law court forms from the courthouse or online. They are available in French and English.

Only one of you needs to fill out the form and check off the "Joint" box. You're both called joint applicants because you’re applying together. There is no respondent.

You also need:

  • Form 36: Affidavit for Divorce, from each of you. Include information about you and your partner, your children, and any arrangements made after separating. This form must be sworn or affirmed. This means you promise that the information in the document is true. You can be charged for committing a crime if you do not tell the truth when you swear or affirm your form.
  • Form 25A: Divorce Order, where you write the orders you want the court to make.
  • Original marriage certificate.
  • 2 stamped envelopes, one addressed to you and one addressed to your partner if you want your order mailed to you, or you can pick it up from the court.

If you can't get a copy of your marriage certificate, you need to explain why you couldn't get it in your Form 36: Affidavit for Divorce.

If you agree on your other issues, you may need to include more documents. For example:

Agree on divorce only

If you and your partner only agree on getting a divorce, but can't agree on your other issues, you can ask the court to "sever" the divorce from the other issues. This means separating your divorce from your other issues.

But, the court might not give you a divorce if there is no child support or other support arrangements made for the children. Step 4 in Do I have to get a divorce? has more information on this.

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3. Take your application to court

Take 3 copies of your Form 8A: Application (Divorce) and any other court forms to the courthouse. Only a Superior Court of Justice or a Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice can make a divorce order.

You have to go to one of those courts in the municipality where:

  • you've been living for at least a year,
  • your partner's been living for at least a year, or
  • your children live, if you're asking for child support, custody, or access.

The court clerk issues your application. This means they:

  • give your case a court file number and write the number in the box on the top right corner of the form
  • sign, date, and place a court seal on the forms
  • give you a Registration of Divorce Proceedings form

You must fill out the Registration of Divorce Proceedings form. The court sends it to the Department of Justice. The department checks a database to make sure that no other divorce applications have been made for you and your partner in Canada. If there are no other applications, they send a clearance certificate to the court. The court has to get this certificate before it gives you a divorce.

4. Pay court fees

You must pay $167 when you file your application. Later you pay $280 when the court reviews your divorce application.

Court fees can be paid by cash, cheque, or money order made payable to the Minister of Finance. If you can't afford to pay the court fees, you can ask the court for a fee waiver. This means you don't have to pay most court fees.

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5. Get your Divorce Order

A judge reviews your documents to make sure everything is complete and you meet the conditions to get a divorce. Steps 1-4 in Do I have to get a divorce? explains what these conditions are. 

Usually, you don't have to go to court or meet with a judge. But, if the judge has questions for you, the court clerk contacts you with a court date or gives you a copy of the judge’s endorsement that tells you what you have to do.

If the judge doesn't have any questions, you get a divorce order. The court clerk can mail you and your partner a certified copy of the signed order in the stamped envelopes you gave or call you to pick it up.

The divorce order has the date it takes effect. This is usually 31 days after the date of the divorce order. This is the date when you will be legally divorced.

The process takes about 3 months. It can take more or less time depending on the court you're applying to and if there are any problems with your paperwork.

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Reviewed: 
September, 2015