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In Alberta, Canada, “Automatic Divorce” refers to a legal process where a married couple is granted a divorce without the need for a court hearing or formal divorce application.  This typically occurs when a couple has been legally separated for a specific period, usually one year, and both parties have lived separate and apart during that time.  The divorce is automatically granted by the court once the required separation period has elapsed, provided there are no outstanding disputes or legal issues between the spouses.  It’s a streamlined process designed to simplify divorce proceedings for couples who have already been separated for an extended period.

Automatic divorce, also known as a “divorce by default” or “divorce by passage of time,” is a legal process in which a married couple is granted a divorce without the need for a court hearing or formal divorce application.  In the context of Alberta, Canada, where this process is applicable, here are its key legal implications;

What are the conditions required for automatic divorce in Alberta?


1. How Much Will be the Separation Period?

To qualify for an automatic divorce in Alberta, spouses must have been living separately and apart for a specific period, typically one year. This period of separation is a legal requirement.

2. Will there be a Court Hearing?

Unlike a contested divorce, which involves court proceedings and legal negotiations, an automatic divorce doesn’t require a court hearing.  It is a more straightforward and simplified process.

3. Finalization:

Once the required separation period has elapsed, and both spouses have met the legal criteria for separation, the divorce is automatically granted by the court.  This means that the marriage is legally dissolved, and both parties are free to remarry if they wish.

4. What about the Spousal Support and Property Division?

While the divorce itself is automatic, issues related to spousal support, child custody, child support, and the division of property may still need to be resolved separately.  These matters can be addressed through negotiations, mediation, or court proceedings if the spouses cannot reach an agreement on their own.

5. Is there for Notification?

It’s essential for both spouses to be aware of the impending automatic divorce and ensure that they have dealt with any outstanding issues related to the marriage before the divorce is granted.

6. Significance of Legal Advice:

Even in cases of automatic divorce, it’s advisable for both spouses to seek legal counsel or advice to understand their rights and responsibilities and to ensure that the process is carried out correctly.

divorce steps in Alberta

What are the steps to obtain an automatic divorce in Alberta?


  1. Obtaining an automatic divorce in Alberta, Canada, involves a relatively straightforward process.  Here’s a step-by-step guide to initiating the automatic divorce process:
  • Eligibility Assessment: Before proceeding, ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for an automatic divorce in Alberta.  This includes having lived separately and apart from your spouse for at least one continuous year.
  • Legal Advice: It’s advisable to consult with a family lawyer to understand your rights and obligations, especially if you have complex issues related to child custody, support, or property division.
  • Gather Documentation: Collect all relevant documentation, such as marriage certificates and any legal agreements, especially if you and your spouse have resolved matters related to support or property.  You may also need to provide evidence of the one-year separation, such as lease agreements, utility bills, or affidavits from witnesses who can confirm the separation.
  • Complete Divorce Forms: Alberta Courts provide divorce forms that need to be filled out accurately.  The main form is the Statement of Claim for Divorce. You can obtain these forms online or at a courthouse.
  • File the Divorce Papers: Take the completed divorce forms to the courthouse in the jurisdiction where you or your spouse currently reside.  You’ll need to pay a filing fee, which varies by location.  The court will stamp the documents with a filing date.
  • Serve Your Spouse: After filing, you must serve your spouse with a copy of the filed divorce documents.  This can be done through a process server, registered mail, or by your spouse voluntarily accepting the documents.  Proper service is critical, and you must complete an Affidavit of Service to confirm this.
  • Waiting Period: From the date of service, there is typically a waiting period of one month.  During this time, your spouse can file a Statement of Defence if they disagree with the divorce.  If they do not respond within this period, the divorce will proceed by default.
  • Request for Divorce Judgment: If your spouse does not respond, you can submit a Request for Divorce Judgment to the court.  This is typically done after the one-month waiting period has passed.
  • Divorce Judgment: Once the court reviews your Request for Divorce Judgment and is satisfied with the paperwork and the one-year separation period, they will grant the divorce.  You will receive a Certificate of Divorce, which confirms the dissolution of your marriage.

2.  Address Other Issues: If you have unresolved matters related to support, custody, or property, these should be addressed separately through negotiation, mediation, or court proceedings.

The legal consequences of an automatic divorce in Alberta primarily involve the dissolution of the marriage itself.  However, it’s crucial to understand that automatic divorce does not automatically address all related legal matters.  Here are the key legal consequences and considerations regarding property division, child custody, and spousal support:

1. Dissolution of Marriage:

The most immediate consequence of an automatic divorce is that the marriage is legally dissolved.  Both parties are free to remarry if they wish.

2. Property Division: Automatic divorce does not automatically resolve property division issues.  If there are disputes or unresolved matters related to the division of assets and debts acquired during the marriage, these issues should be addressed separately.

Spouses can negotiate property division agreements outside of court or seek mediation to reach a fair resolution.  If an agreement cannot be reached, the court may need to intervene to make a property division determination.

3. Child Custody: Matters related to child custody and access are not automatically addressed by an automatic divorce.

Parents should establish a parenting plan outlining custody arrangements and visitation schedules.  This plan should prioritize the best interests of the child or children involved.  If parents cannot agree on custody arrangements, they may need to seek mediation or go to court for a custody determination.

4. Child Support:

The obligation to provide financial support for children remains even after an automatic divorce.  Child support arrangements should be made to ensure that the children’s needs are met.

Child support calculations are typically based on provincial guidelines and take into account factors such as the income of both parents and the number of children.

5. Spousal Support:

Spousal support, also known as alimony or maintenance, is not automatically addressed by an automatic divorce.

If one spouse is entitled to spousal support or if there are disputes regarding the amount and duration of support, this issue should be negotiated, mediated, or determined by the court.

6. Enforcement of Agreements: 

Any agreements reached regarding property division, child custody, or spousal support should be documented in writing and, if applicable, filed with the court.  This helps ensure that the agreements are legally enforceable.  While automatic divorce simplifies the process of dissolving the marriage itself, it does not automatically resolve issues related to property division, child custody, or spousal support.  These matters must be addressed separately through negotiation, mediation, or court proceedings, with a focus on the best interests of any children involved and the fair treatment of both spouses. At Kolinsky Law, we are here to provide the support and legal representation you need during this trying time to navigate these complex issues effectively.