January is known to be a busy time for divorce lawyers. In fact, the rise in new client inquires has become so common that some have even begun to dub the early days of January as “Divorce Day”. This is thought to be the result of a busy and stressful holiday season, in which couples try to “get through Christmas for the kids”, and often results in the breakdown of a relationship.
The first steps towards divorce are the hardest. You are wading into unchartered territory and flipping your world as you know it on its head. Even those who have been considering divorce for a while will find that the initial stages can feel very overwhelming. That is why we at Jones Divorce and Family Law strive to provide you with clear and concise legal advice with specific actionable steps that you can take to move your divorce forward. Meeting with a lawyer shouldn’t leave you feeling more overwhelmed – you should walk away feeling confident with a plan that works for you and your family.
What You Can Do to Help Your Family Law Lawyer
Nobody knows your life better than you do. You can save yourself a lot of money with your lawyer by providing them with some specific documents. Prior to your initial consultation, you will likely be given a Client Questionnaire or some type of client in-take form. Take the time to fill this out clearly and with as much detail as possible. Your lawyer will use this document countless times as they prepare your divorce pleadings and will rely on the dates and information enclosed time and time again. Another good idea is to prepare your statement of income, assets and liabilities as soon as possible. You can receive a standard form from your lawyer or just make your own list detailing your financial situation. Of course, you might not know all of the financial aspect of your relationship, especially if your partner took the lead on this during the marriage. However, any details you can provide will assist your lawyer with a strategy for your next steps forward.
Filing the Statement of Claim for Divorce
In Alberta, the most common grounds for divorce is a one-year separation. This means parties must live separately for one year prior to being granted a divorce. It is important to note that parties can be cohabitating during this separation period but both parties must present themselves to their friends, family and the public as separated. For example, you must divide your finances, eat and cook your own meals and socialize outside of your spouse. During the pandemic, this is particularly important to note as you may wish to separate but be unable to physically move into a new home. If this is your situation, keep a record of your separation so that this date cannot be easily disputed. A simple record can be kept by making notes of when you and your spouse discussed divorcing or when you met with a family law lawyer. The first official step in your divorce proceedings will be filing a Statement of Claim for Divorce. You can file the Statement of Claim anytime during the one-year separation. Some parties choose to file it right away, while others wait until closer to the one-year mark. When you file does not have any impact, but you do need to have a Statement of Claim filed to file any other court pleadings. This is why often time, parties choose to file the Statement of Claim right away to get the ball rolling, especially if the separation is volatile.
Resolving Corollary Issues
Prior to being granted a divorce, the court will want to see that you and your spouse have resolved all issues relating to property, finances, parenting and support. One way to do this is to enter into a Separation Agreement. For an Agreement of this nature to be legally binding in Alberta, both parties must receive independent legal advice from a lawyer. As such, one of you will need to retain a lawyer to draft the terms of the Agreement. The other will also retain a lawyer to review the Agreement and provide their legal advice. Once both parties are agreeable to the Agreement, you can sign same. The terms of the Agreement would then be the basis for your Divorce Judgment. The Divorce Judgment will then be submitted to the court with a desk divorce package. A Justice will review the terms of the Divorce Judgment to ensure it is in line with the law and that all legal obligation such as child support have been addressed. If the Justice is satisfied, they will sign the Judgment and you can then order your Certificate of Divorce.
If you have questions regarding separation or divorce, connect with us today to schedule your initial consultation.