An uncontested divorce is sometimes called a no-contest divorce, joint divorce or desk divorce.
The term "desk divorce" in Calgary comes from the fact that such divorces do not require an appearance before a judge. Instead, the divorce application is decided on the judge's desk.
The Government of Alberta establishes the rules of court that apply to divorce proceedings. This article explains some of the basic rules and procedures involved.
Move forward with confidence. The uncontested divorce lawyers at FC&Z in Calgary can help. Call (403) 460-1230 for a free consult, and to find out whether our law firm would be a good fit for your divorce.
What is an uncontested divorce in Alberta?
An "uncontested divorce" refers to a divorce application where all issues have been resolved between the divorcing couple. Although they have decided to end their marriage, the couple has chosen to do so jointly, by agreement, and without submitting any disputes to the courts. In other words, it is a no-contest divorce.
In an uncontested divorce, an application for divorce is still required as a legal formality to end the marriage. However, the judge does not need to decide anything other than whether or not to grant the divorce.
What issues must be resolved to grant a no-contest divorce?
Since a no-contest divorce is uncontested, all issues between the couple must be resolved. In particular, the following issues must be resolved before a court will grant the divorce:
- Division of any shared property (matrimonial property)
- The amount and duration of any spousal support (alimony)
- Child support
- Child access and parenting arrangements (child custody)
If any of these issues remain unresolved, a desk divorce cannot be granted. For example, you may need to speak with a child support lawyer if there are children involved.
The divorcing couple will need to resolve these issues through negotiation, mediation or (if all else fails) through the court process, before a divorce will be granted.
Advantages of an Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested divorce can have many advantages over the expensive, slow and adversarial court process. It's usually worthwhile to attempt to reach an agreement on any outstanding issues before going to court.
A contested divorce can be very costly. Legal fees are generally based on time spent, billed in 6 minute increments. The time spent analyzing a client's legal position, learning about the history of the relationship, and calculating entitlements in various legal scenarios can quickly add up. The time a lawyer spends actually talking with and advising their own client is usually only a small fraction of the overall time spent on a contested divorce file.
If a divorce goes all the way to trial, lawyer costs for each person will run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
For most people, that's way too much.
With an uncontested divorce, instead of paying time-based legal fees you can hire a lawyer to review your divorce documents for a flat fee and ensure your divorce is completed efficiently and cost-effectively. If you can agree with your ex on all outstanding issues, you will both save a lot of money.
Reaching an agreement instead of going to court is better for everyone - especially children. When you have children with someone, you will have to interact with them at some level at least until the children are grown, whether you remain married or not.
If you are able to preserve a functional working relationship with your former spouse, your children stand to benefit. An uncontested divorce can help with that outcome by avoiding conflict.
Don't make the mistake of accepting a terrible deal just to avoid conflict. It's still important that the divorce is fair. Otherwise, financial or parenting issues can turn into disputes later on, and potentially create damaging hostility and conflict to which children are particularly vulnerable.
That's why it's so important to have an experienced family lawyer review your divorce, even if you agree on everything.
The hard truth is that a courtroom divorce can take years. Sometimes, many years. The process bears little resemblance to the fast-paced timing typical of television legal dramas.
First there is the disclosure of documents, and then potentially a series of court applications, questioning before a court reporter, and only then a trial, typically after many months, when all the evidence has been gathered and the schedules of the judge and lawyers and parties finally align.
Although a desk divorce may settle on a judge's desk for a few weeks before being reviewed, the process will be completed dramatically faster than running to the courthouse with unresolved disputes.
How a Lawyer can Help
Divorce is stressful, even under the best possible circumstances. Whether you have an agreement in principle or not, you owe it to yourself to hire an experienced advisor to help you through the process.
Divorce is also complex and the terms of your divorce will affect the rest of your life. Don't make an expensive mistake.
When you work with FC&Z to prepare a desk divorce, a top Alberta family lawyer will review your situation, determine whether you meet the legal requirements for an uncontested divorce, and ensure you understand your rights and obligations under the law.
Independent legal advice is a statutory requirement for most desk divorces, and is included in all uncontested divorce plans offered by FC&Z.
Legal Requirements for an Uncontested Divorce in Alberta
Breakdown of the Marriage
Before you can get divorced in Alberta, you must establish that there has been a breakdown of the marriage. In an uncontested divorce, this is typically done by having both parties swear that they have lived separately and apart for at least one year.
The process can be started before the year is over, but a divorce will not be granted until the one-year period has passed.
No Disputes = No Contest
At the risk of stating the obvious, for a divorce to be uncontested, you must not have any outstanding disputes for the court to resolve.
In other words, if you have an agreement on everything except one remaining issue, and that issue is important to you, you will need to resolve that issue before applying for an uncontested divorce.
A large part of our family law practice is helping divorcing couples resolve that "one last issue" in order to be ready to apply for a no-contest divorce. Where the issue or issues are relatively narrow, mediation or arbitration can be great options for moving forward without engaging the adversarial court process.
Alberta residency for Divorce
In order to get divorced in Alberta, you or your spouse, must be an Alberta resident. Residency can be established by living in Alberta for the past year.
At least one person must also live in Alberta until the Statement of Claim for divorce is filed.
Marriage Certificate & Photo
You will need to produce an original marriage certificate. If you don't have your marriage certificate, you can obtain it from the jurisdiction you were married in. We will also need to see a photo of the spouse who has not retained us in order to proceed with the desk divorce application.
Do I need a Separation Agreement?
For most people, the answer is yes. The divorce application will only address certain limited issues. A detailed separation agreement is the only way to ensure everything is truly resolved. If you're interested in avoiding disputes long-term, you should have a separation agreement.
At FC&Z, we will typically draft a separation agreement as part of your uncontested divorce plan, ensuring that the agreement you've reached is comprehensive, documented, and legally enforceable.
Flat Rate Fees
Call today for information about our flat rate pricing for uncontested divorces. Divorce does not have to be expensive, and the peace of mind that comes from hiring an experienced legal team is priceless.
Pricing depends on the following factors:
- Whether there are children involved
- Whether a separation agreement is necessary
- Whether you can locate your ex (otherwise a substitutional serice order is required)
- Any other unusual circumstances specific to your situation
The vast majority of our uncontested divorce cases are completed for the agreed flat fee. However, if something comes up and you are not able to proceed on an uncontested basis, we can provide legal representation as you require at our standard hourly rates.
Hiring an Uncontested Divorce Lawyer in Calgary, A.B.
Retaining a lawyer is like choosing a doctor or a psychologist. You'll want to be sure the firm is a good fit. That's why we offer free phone consultations before you meet with and retain a lawyer.
To schedule a free consultation with a member of our experienced Alberta family law team, call our office in Calgary at (403) 460-1230 or contact us through this website.