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General Divorce Laws in Canada

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A Cook, Software analyst & Blogger.

Whether you’re a new resident of Canada or you’ve lived there a while, you probably don’t know about the divorce laws in Canada unless you’re considering getting a divorce.

If you’re in that situation now, it’s always recommended you consult with an expert like those at Simple Divorce Lawyer. But if you’re just beginning your research, here are the general divorce laws in Canada.

Basic Requirements for Divorce in Canada

Only a court can grant a married couple a divorce in Canada. As such, you will have to apply for your divorce through the legal system. This is why having a lawyer experienced in divorce in Canada can make the process easier. At the most basic level, though, to get a divorce in Canada, you must meet all of these criteria:

  • You and your spouse were legally married in Canada, under Canada’s marriage laws, or you and your spouse were legally married under the laws of another country and Canada legally recognizes your marriage from that country
  • Your marriage is no longer sustainable
  • You and your spouse have lived for at least one full year in the province or territory in which you are applying for divorce and you have done so immediately prior to submitting your application (you can’t apply for divorce in a province or territory where you once lived for a year or longer, even if you’ve just moved back to that province or territory)

Laws Regarding Grounds for Divorce

The second criterion for divorce in Canada says that your divorce must be “broken down” or no longer sustainable, but what does that really mean? Canada is a no-fault divorce country, and the only ground required for divorce in Canada’s “Divorce Act” is marriage breakdown. You can prove that your marriage is broken down or no longer sustainable if any one or more of the following criteria are present:

  • You and your spouse have lived apart for one year or longer
  • Your spouse has physically or mentally abused you
  • Your spouse has had a relationship with another person outside the marriage

If you have lived apart from your spouse for a year or longer and you want to try to reconcile before taking the final step in filing for divorce, you can live together for up to 90 days and still use the one-year separation criteria as if the 90 days never happened. You can also live separately in the same house, but a lawyer should advise you under what conditions would meet the requirement and how to ensure it does.

Residence Requirement Exceptions

As mentioned in the first section, only Canadian residents can apply for divorce in Canada, but there are some exceptions. If neither you nor your spouse lives in Canada, you are not able to get a divorce in Canada under “The Divorce Act.” However, you may be able to end the marriage under “The Civil Marriage Act.” To do so, both of these criteria must be met:

  • You and your spouse are legally married in Canada AND
  • You are unable to get a divorce in the country where you are currently living because that country does not recognize Canadian marriages. 

You will need to apply for divorce through the Superior Court in the province or territory in which you married your spouse. This will only end the marriage and will not resolve other issues such as child support or alimony, which must be resolved in your current country.


There aren’t very many laws governing divorce in Canada, but they are very specific. Consult a divorce lawyer to assist you if you have any questions about the requirements.

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