How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in BC (Canada) - Zukerman Law

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce?

Divorce. The word conjures many emotions: sadness, anger, relief, and often, a yearning for finality. While the emotional journey of divorce can take time, many individuals want to know: how long will this legal process take?

The truth is, there’s no single answer. Every divorce unfolds uniquely and is influenced by various factors. This blog post aims to demystify the divorce timeline, equipping you with the knowledge to navigate this stage with greater clarity and peace of mind.

Navigating the Divorce Timeline: From Filing to Finalization

Navigating the Divorce Timeline: From Filing to Finalization

The lead up to a divorce can last for months or even years. Coming to this decision is not easy but once you reach this point, many individuals just want the process to be over with. The truth of the matter is that no two divorces will proceed in exactly the same way. What may be a quick and relatively stress-free process for some can be time-consuming and complicated for others.

The road to a complete and legal divorce will look different according to each unique situation but there are a few things that can be done to ensure the process is as painless as possible. In the same way that some actions can encourage a quicker divorce, there are others that will slow the process down.

Filing: It is possible to file a divorce petition at any time following a separation even where the two spouses continue to live in the same home for economic reasons. Not all separations look the same but for the most part it means spouses hold themselves out to others as no longer being a couple, take on separate living arrangements and finances, creating new lives as single individuals. A full and legal divorce will not be granted for at least a year after the date of separation. There are exceptions to this one-year rule, as in the case of abuse or infidelity that has not been forgiven and circumstances where the parties continue to live under the same roof but are living separately under that roof (not cooking or cleaning for each other and not engaging in sexual relations).

Agreements: The timeline of a divorce is heavily dependent on whether or not both parties agree to the terms of a separation. The main points of contention in any separation are parenting and support, as well as property and debt division.

  • Uncontested Divorce: For those spouses who agree on these issues, separation agreements can help to expedite the divorce process. If settlements or agreements are reached, it becomes known as an uncontested divorce or a “desk order” divorce and can take as little as 4 to 6 months.
  • Contested Divorce: If both parties are unable to come to an agreement, it becomes known as a contested divorce. Processing a contested divorce take longer due to the additional steps of mediation and potentially going to trial. Such litigation can easily take 6 months to 2 years to fully resolve.

Paperwork: Divorces are not possible without paperwork. Many people struggle with paperwork at the best of times, but legal terminology and concepts can make this even more difficult. If forms are filled out or submitted incorrectly, it can take weeks or months to notice the problem, causing lengthy delays. Seeking help from a family lawyer is a great option for navigating the complicated filing process.

Reconciliation: An attempt to reconcile with a partner does not necessarily impact the timeline of a divorce. It is not uncommon for separating spouses to attempt reconciliation at least once before terminating a marriage completely. Parties may resume cohabitation for up to a total of 90 days while trying to repair a relationship. If a reconciliation is not possible within 90 days of attempted reconciliation, the original date of separation can be used when filing.

There is no one answer to the question of “how long does it take to get divorced?” As with any complicated legal process, there are pitfalls and there are advantages. It is important to consider expert legal representation when moving forward with the divorce process. Our experienced Surrey Divorce and Separation Lawyers can help to ensure that all steps are followed to the letter, making the process as quick and painless as possible.

Unexpected Delays That Can Extend Your Divorce

Unexpected Delays That Can Extend Your Divorce

While reaching agreements can significantly expedite your divorce, unforeseen circumstances may emerge and slow down the progress of your divorce. Here are some unexpected delays to be aware of:

  • Complexity of Assets and Debts: Dividing intricate financial holdings like stock options, retirement accounts, or inherited property requires careful evaluation and negotiation. Untangling complex business ownership or hidden assets can further extend the process.
  • Child Custody Disputes: Disagreements over child custody arrangements, visitation schedules, or child support can be emotionally charged and require additional court appearances or mediation sessions to resolve.
  • Hidden Debts or Assets: The discovery of undisclosed debts or assets after the initial financial disclosure can necessitate agreement revisions and potentially delay finalization.
  • Court Availability: Backlogged court calendars can lead to waiting periods for hearings or trial dates, extending the overall timeline. This is especially true in areas with limited family court resources.
  • Witness Availability: If witnesses are required to testify regarding marital misconduct or the division of assets, their availability can impact the scheduling of hearings and potentially delay the process.
  • Changes in Circumstances: Major life events like job loss, serious illness, or relocation by either spouse can necessitate postponing legal proceedings or revisiting agreements, affecting the timeline.
Budgeting for Your Divorce

Budgeting for Your Divorce

Divorce comes with emotional and logistical challenges, and navigating the financial aspects can add another layer of stress. This section sheds light on court fees and filing costs associated with a divorce in British Columbia.

Essential Court Fees

Regardless of whether your divorce is contested or uncontested and whether you have a lawyer, court fees are mandatory. As of this writing, these fees range from $290 to $330 for a divorce application in BC.

Additional Expenses to Consider

Beyond the core court fees, there may be other costs associated with your divorce:

  • Process Server Fees: If you need to serve legal documents on your spouse, a process server will incur a fee for this service.
  • Notary Public Fees: If a lawyer does not represent you, you may need to hire a notary public to swear affidavits. This will involve additional fees.

Cost-Saving Tips

  • Early Disclosure: Open and honest financial disclosure from both parties upfront can minimize the need for additional legal services and associated costs.
  • Consider Mediation: If you and your spouse can agree on key issues through mediation, you can potentially avoid litigation and the associated court costs.
  • Consult a Lawyer: While initial consultations with a lawyer may involve a fee, their guidance can help you navigate the process efficiently, potentially saving money in the long run.

Who pays for the divorce in BC?

  • Divorce involves financial considerations beyond just dividing assets and debts. One question arises: who pays for the legal costs of obtaining a divorce order in British Columbia?
  • The answer depends on whether you and your spouse can reach a separation agreement. This agreement can specify how these costs will be shared. Common options include splitting the costs equally or having the spouse who files for divorce shoulder the burden.
  • Without an agreement, or if your divorce goes to court, the judge may award court-ordered costs to the “winning” party after a specific step in the proceedings or the trial itself. It’s important to note that these awarded costs will only cover a portion of your legal fees and expenses, not the entire amount.
Zukerman Law: Your Trusted Guide Through Divorce

Zukerman Law: Your Trusted Guide Through Divorce

Divorce is a complex legal process with emotional and financial implications. At Zukerman Law, we understand your challenges. We are dedicated to providing compassionate and effective legal guidance throughout this journey. Our experienced family law team can assist you with all aspects of your divorce, including:

  • Negotiating Separation Agreements: We’ll work tirelessly to help you reach a fair and amicable agreement that addresses property division, child custody (if applicable), and spousal support.
  • Streamlining the Process: Our knowledge of BC’s Family Law Act and efficient approach can help expedite the divorce process whenever possible, minimizing delays and costs.
  • Protecting Your Rights: We’ll advocate fiercely for your interests and ensure your rights are protected throughout the legal proceedings.
  • Managing Court Appearances: If your divorce goes to court, our experienced lawyers will represent you effectively and ensure your voice is heard by the judge.

Stuart Zukerman

Stuart Zukerman, a graduate of the University of British Columbia, has over 32 years of experience in litigation with a focus on Family Law, Personal Injury, Wrongful Dismissal claims, and Collaborative Divorce & Mediation. He has extensive trial experience in divorce, child custody, spousal support, asset division, and ICBC injury claims. As an accredited Family Law Mediator, he helps resolve disputes without court intervention. Stuart has also authored papers on family law and lectured at CLE courses.