In Québec, there are several ways to file for divorce, each with their own specific requirements. No matter which path is taken, there must be a motive for the divorce (separation, adultery, or mental or physical cruelty) and a judge must then grant the divorce in order for it to become official.
Divorce based on a separation
The most common grounds for divorce is a separation. If you and your spouse have lived apart for 12 months or more, you can file for divorce. It’s possible to meet this requirement even if you and your spouse were technically living under the same roof for all or part of this time, as long as you were in separate quarters and living separate lives (think: not sharing the marital bed anymore). The separation can be legal (pronounced by a judge), or a de facto (factual) separation where you’ve been living apart for the full year without a legal agreement in place.
During the 12-month period of separation, you and your spouse might try to reconcile your relationship and live together again. If the reconciliation isn’t successful, it will not affect the clock on that 12 months unless you resumed living together for 90 days or more.
After being separated for a year, you can apply for divorce jointly or separately.
Divorce based on adultery or mental or physical cruelty
There are two other grounds for divorce that Québec courts consider valid, both of which are more serious than simple separation. One is adultery, the other is mental or physical cruelty. Both of those must be proven in court.
Filing for divorce
The most straightforward way for you and your spouse to get divorced is by coming to an agreement together. This agreement has to deal with all the consequences of the divorce, such as the custody of your children and the division of your assets. It is strongly advised that you have your draft agreement reviewed by your own attorney before signing it, to help you understand all the consequences. Once both you and your spouse consent to the agreement, it must be approved by a judge.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on some or all of the consequences of your divorce, you can consult with a lawyer or a mediator to help you negotiate an agreement or take the matter to court for a judge to decide.
Goldwater-Dubé specializes in family law and divorce. If you think we can help, contact us on our website or call us at (514) 861-4367 to set up a consultation.