Divorces can be messy, overwhelming, and extremely difficult for any couple and family. To help you get through this process as easy as possible, we’ve outlined what happens during divorce proceedings to keep you informed.
You Must Prove Your Relationship is Broken
To divorce your spouse, by law you must prove that your marriage has broken down. The divorce can occur if you can prove any of the following situations:
A one-year separation period has occurred. Once the one-year mark has passed then you can apply to court for a divorce. That is unless your spouse opposes the divorce, in which case, they would need to have a legitimate reason for doing so. You can also apply for a divorce if your spouse has committed adultery or they have been mentally or physically abusive to you, which has resulted in physical violence or mental anguish.
You will need to explain why you are divorcing during the proceedings, but you do not need to prove that your spouse was at fault. It also does not matter which partner decided to leave, if you have been living apart for one year, either party can still request the divorce.
Typical Steps in A Divorce Proceedings
First Court Date or “First Appearance”
You will have a first court date if your case occurs at the Family Court Branch of the Superior Court of Justice or the Ontario Court of Justice. This can either start with an appearance before a Dispute Resolution Officer or before the court clerk to ensure all parties have been served, and those documents are complete. If your documents are incomplete, the clerk may set another date. In the event your partner does not file their forms, the court clerk can send your case directly to the judge for a decision based on the documents you have provided.
First Case Conference
If your documents were complete at your first appearance, the court clerk will set a date for your first case conference. At the case conference, the judge will identify if all relevant information has been disclosed and discuss the case with you. They will also make procedural orders. If the parties can agree to any issues at the case conference, the judge will make an order that incorporates the resolution that has been agreed upon. Depending on the outcome, another case conference will be set to proceed to the next steps.
Parties can only present a motion on something that was discussed at the case conference. At this time and going forward, parties can file motions to be decided upon by the judge. If you file a motion to change the case conference can be seen by a Dispute Resolution Officer to assist with resolving any issues.
This is an informal meeting where the judge or judicial officer will work with the parties to attempt to achieve a settlement. The judicial officer at this meeting will not be the judge at your trial. If the parties cannot reach a settlement on their own, the next step is for the parties to agree upon the deadline for filing the documents to go to trial, known as a Trial Management Conference.
Trial Management Conference:
During this conference, the procedures will also be set out. The goal is to get you ready for trial. Both parties must provide the court information on how they plan to present their case at the trial, including what witnesses and documents you plan to present.
A trial is only required if you cannot come to a settlement on your own. Your lawyer will work closely with you to prepare the appropriate documents, including the trial record, and any reports or orders relating to the trial. Each party will be allowed an opening statement and given time to speak before the judge about the case. A witness can also be called to provide evidence during the trial. Each party will also be allowed a closing statement summarizing the evidence before the judge. The judge has the option to make a decision at the end of the trial or at a later date.
Trial can be a lengthy and expensive process. Mediation can be attempted before going to court or at any time during the court proceedings to see if you can reach a settlement without sitting before a judge. At Zuber Brioux, we specialize in family mediation and divorce cases and would be happy to discuss with you the best option for your specific situation.