How can I get a divorce in Ontario?

The law about divorce in Ontario is the same as everywhere else in Canada.

You do not have to be a Canadian citizen to apply for a divorce, but there are certain criteria you must meet.

Eligibility Criteria

If you want an Ontario court to officially end your marriage, you can apply for a divorce if you meet these 3 eligibility criteria:

  1. You were legally married in Canada or in any other country.
  2. You intend to separate permanently from your spouse or have left your spouse already, and you do not believe there is a possibility you will get back together.
  3. You and/or your spouse have lived in Ontario for at least the 12 months preceding your application.

The Divorce Act is the federal law that deals with divorce matters in Canada. If you are not legally married, divorce law does not apply to you.

There may be an exception to the residency requirement if both you and your spouse live outside Canada and you live in a country that does not recognize your Canadian marriage. You may be able to end your marriage under the Civil Marriage Act and can apply for divorce in Ontario with existing forms from the Ministry of the Attorney General.

If your relationship has broken down but you are not legally married, the term used is "separation". When you separate, you and/or your spouse decide to live apart and do not intend to live together again. Although the federal law does not apply to unmarried couples who separate, you can still negotiate a "separation agreement" and other arrangements regarding child custody, access and support under Ontario laws.

Legally Accepted Reasons for Getting a Divorce

To get a divorce, you must show that your marriage has broken down. The law says a marriage is broken if at least one of these apply:

  • You and your spouse have lived apart for one year and consider your marriage over.
  • Your spouse has committed adultery and you have not forgiven your spouse.
  • Your spouse has been physically or mentally cruel to you such that living together is intolerable.

If you are asking for a divorce because of adultery or physical or mental cruelty against you, you will have to prove what happened.

How do I begin a divorce process?

Before starting a divorce, it is recommended that you seek legal advice from an expert in family law. An expert such as a lawyer can tell you how the law applies to your case and how you can protect your rights. You can find a lawyer or ask for some information and referrals at a Family Law Information Centre in an Ontario family court.

To start the divorce process, you must:

  1. Fill out a divorce application.
  2. Submit the application at an Ontario courthouse.
  3. Pay the required court fees.
  4. Follow any court rules and procedures given.

There are several costs to getting a divorce in Ontario. For that information, read the answer to How much does a divorce cost? on the website of the Ministry of the Attorney General.

For More Information

  • What are my rights if I get separated or divorced? - This article explains the rights you may be entitled to if you get separated or divorced, such as property, support for your children or spousal support.
  • Family Law - Information about calculating child support, finding family justice services and creating a parenting plan. From the Department of Justice.
  • Divorce and Separation - Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about divorce, as well as other related matters such as child custody and support. From the Ministry of the Attorney General.
  • How to Apply for a Divorce - Information you need to apply for a divorce. From Justice Canada.
  • What You Should Know About Family Law in Ontario - A booklet about the laws that may affect you if you separate from your spouse. Available in 9 languages. From the Ministry of the Attorney General.
  • Resources: Divorce and Separation - A list of useful Web and PDF resources on matters of divorce and separation. From Your Legal Rights.
  • Families Change - An interactive tool for children whose parents are getting a divorce and online courses for parents going through a separation. From the Justice Education Society of B.C.
  • Flowchart: Steps in a Family Law Case - This chart shows the steps that can happen in a family law court case in Ontario. It applies to court cases on child custody and access, child support, spousal support and property division. From CLEO - Community Legal Education Ontario.
Last updated: December 29, 2016 4001589