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If you’ve been served with divorce papers in Ontario, you must act quickly! You have as little as 30 days in which to respond and protect your rights.
Have You Been Served With Divorce Papers?
The Divorce Papers
If your spouse begins a divorce proceeding, your spouse is called the applicant and you are the respondent. (If you begin the proceedings, you would be the applicant.) The applicant "serves" the respondent (hands you) two documents: an application and (if there are financial issues) a financial statement.
Your First Step - Read Everything (with your divorce lawyer, if necessary)
Even if you were anticipating the papers and think you know what they say, you must examine them -- thoroughly and immediately. The application will detail the reasons your spouse is asking for a divorce, and also additional topics including child custody, child support, property division, spousal support, and sometimes legal protections like a restraining order.
It is critical that you read and understand the contents of the papers you receive. If you need professional guidance, seek it out. The decisions you make at the onset of the divorce process may have far-reaching effects; you don't want to make a wrong move…or make a move that's too late.
Do You Agree with the Contents?
The contents of application affect how you wish to proceed. If you and your spouse have been separated for 12 months and the only thing that is requested is a divorce, it is unlikely that you will have any objections. However, if your spouse is making any financial or child custody claims, you will want to respond.
Your Response (The "Answer")
If you need to respond, this is done in a document known as an answer. This document is filed with the court that issued the divorce papers and a copy is sent to your spouse or your spouse's divorce lawyer.
It is likely that you also need to submit a financial statement at this time. The amount of information required for this can be time-consuming to put together, so do not procrastinate -- 30 days can go by very quickly.
If you fail to respond to the application, or are late in responding, you are stating that you have no objection to what your spouse is claiming.