How Can I Get a Divorce?

The Divorce Act, passed by the federal parliament in Ottawa, is the law governing divorce in British Columbia (and, for that matter, the rest of Canada).

In B.C., only the Supreme Court of British Columbia can make a divorce order.

A court may only grant a divorce if it determines that there has been a breakdown of a marriage. "Breakdown of a marriage" is established if the Claimant is able to prove one of the following things:

  1. That the parties have lived separately and apart for a period in excess of one year; or,
  2. That the spouse against whom the divorce proceeding is brought committed adultery; or,
  3. That the spouse against whom the divorce proceeding is brought has treated the claimant with physical or mental cruelty to such a degree that it has made the continued cohabitation of the spouses "intolerable" to the claimant.

The vast majority of divorces are obtained by proving that the parties have lived separate and apart from each other for more than one year. This is often referred to as the "No-Fault" ground because to prove it you do not have to show that only one of the spouses was responsible for the breakdown of the marriage. The rights of the parties are not affected by which of the grounds for divorce is proven (i.e. you will not get any advantage by proving that your spouse committed adultery, or physical or mental cruelty) so it is usually not worth the additional time and expense of proving adultery or cruelty.

You should know that in order to obtain a divorce on the basis of separation in excess of one year you do not actually have to prove that you have lived in a separate residence from your spouse. You can live in the same residence as your spouse as long as you and your spouse have lived your lives separately and apart from each other. Examples of spouses living their lives separately and apart include:

  1. Occupying separate bedrooms;
  2. No longer having sexual relations;
  3. A lack of communication between the spouses;
  4. Eating meals separately;
  5. A lack of provision of domestic services to each other;
  6. Not participating in social activities together.

It is not necessary to establish all of these factors, but the presence of a greater number of them is more likely to indicate that the spouses are, in fact, living separately and apart.


You should also know that it is not necessary for the spouses to have lived separately and apart from each other at the time the divorce proceeding is filed with the court. The divorce action can be filed as soon as the parties separate. This will give the claimant the ability to apply to the Court for interim orders for custody, child support and spousal support. However, a divorce order cannot be granted on the basis of one year of separation until the parties have actually been separated for one year.

Other than actually obtaining an Order for Divorce, there are four other main issues that may arise in a divorce action, or in family law cases involving unmarried individuals. These include custody of children, child support, spousal support, and division of property. Each of these will be addressed in separate posts.

Valley Law Group LLP

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Abbotsford, BC V2S 3N5

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