Step 1: The Application
Generally, the first step in the Divorce process is the “Application,” a written document submitted to the court to initiate the proceedings.
In the Application, the “applicant spouse’s” lawyer asks the court to grant a divorce (if the parties are married). Also, the lawyer “pleads” – or states the facts – which form the basis for action being requested, amongst other relief such as custody, access, division of property, etc.
This is the opportunity for spouses starting the divorce process to tell the court the story of what they want from the Court, why they think they should get it, and to lay out their view of what will be best for the children.
Because the Application starts a court proceeding, it has to be served on the “responding spouse” by special service. This means that you cannot just mail, fax or e-mail it to your spouse.
Depending on what a spouse is asking for financially, usually an applicant spouse must include a financial statement, which is a court document that lists all assets, debts and income sources. The applicant spouse’s lawyer prepares it stating the applicant spouse’s income, expenses, assets and liabilities. There are different financial statements for couples who are dividing property and for those who are not.
For us to complete your financial statement, you must provide us with a full and accurate financial disclosure. This is taken very seriously by the courts; you must swear under oath that the document is true, which is generally done in our office.
Financial statements must be updated regularly to keep the court informed of any changes in the financial circumstances of a spouse.
Step 2: The Answer
The Answer is how the responding spouse addresses the claims made in the Application.
The responding spouse tells the court if they agree with any of the claims made and adds additional facts they feel that the court should know.
Also, responding spouses are allowed to make their own claims if they feel that the Application omitted key items or wants the court to do something other than what the Application requests.
Responding spouses must submit their Answer within 30 days of receiving the Application.
If they miss the deadline, the applicant spouse can proceed without notifying the responding spouse again. This means that the applicant spouse can go before a judge without the responding spouse, and no evidence from the responding spouse included. Different timelines apply if the responding spouse lives outside of Canada.
This deadline is one of the reasons why it is so important that you retain us as soon as you are served with an Application.
Responding spouses must also submit a financial statement with their answer.
Step 3: The Reply
Once the applicant spouse has received the responding spouse’s Answer they may submit a Reply, which must be done within 10 days of receiving the Answer.
The Reply gives the applicant spouse an opportunity to respond to any new claims raised by the respondent spouse. But the applicant spouse is not permitted to raise any new evidence or claims in the Reply.