Have You Been Served With Divorce Papers?

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.

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.

Once you’ve filed your answer, your first court appearance will be at a “case conference.” Although held at court, and presided over by a judge, the case conference is not an adversarial proceeding. It is more like a judge-led mediation. The judge will not make an order unless both parties agree or unless the order is procedural.

If the case conference does not settle matters, and there is a need for immediate relief, such as immediate child custody, child support, spousal support or a decision on who will remain in the matrimonial home, a “motion” will be scheduled. At the motion, a judge will decide the issue, based on your and your spouse’s “affidavits” (sworn testimony in writing) and the arguments of your divorce lawyers.

The Need for Professional Guidance
As you can see, during each step of a divorce there are many questions to be answered…not to mention complex court papers to be filed and documents to be compiled. Few people are prepared for or experienced in the intricacies of divorce. As well, family law is a very specialized field of law – most lawyers are not experienced in divorce law. An established professional who has both a wide overview of the family law system as well as detailed knowledge of the laws specific to your province is an important asset in even the most amicable divorce. Our practice is devoted exclusively to family law. Because of this, we can offer you the professional guidance you need.

We’re On Your Side
We’re experienced representing clients of both sexes and in protecting the legal rights and needs of young children. We’re tough advocates for our clients in negotiating and litigating the contested issues of child support, child custody and access, spousal support and the division of property. We believe that good communication reduces anxiety and will help bring your case to a successful resolution as quickly as possible. More importantly — you can get answers as quickly as you need from us. Because as you’ve learned above — If you’ve been “served”…you need to act NOW.

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If you are considering divorce in Ottawa or the surrounding area -- or have already made your decision -- you're invited to email or call us. We'll explain how you can protect your legal rights, reduce the expense of divorce, and protect your children from undue emotional stress. Click here to contact us.
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