Yes. The paperwork is somewhat complicated, and there are strict rules about how to proceed, but you certainly can act on your own to get a divorce. There are kits available to help you with the procedure. However, you should understand your legal rights and obligations so as to make an informed decision.
In Canada, a divorce involves two parts: the “divorce,” which ends the marriage, and “corollary relief,” which deals with future parenting of your children and with child and spousal support. In addition, you will want to be sure that the property which you and your spouse have acquired during your marriage is divided between you.
At the very least, a lawyer can advise you about your rights and obligations which result from your marriage. There are a number of questions which you will want answered before you proceed with a divorce. These questions will include the parenting of your children, where you and they will live, how your expenses will be paid, and by whom. You will also want to know about your obligations to support your children, whether they live with you or your spouse, and visitation arrangements for the parent with whom they are not living. You may also have an obligation to support your spouse, or to obtain support for yourself.
And, finally, I expect you will want to know what happens to your and your spouse’s property. You may not be aware that “property” in the context of a separation and divorce includes not just real estate and money, but also business interests, savings, pensions, investments, retirement funds, and many other assets. If you do not make a claim for division of your property when you apply for a divorce, you may lose the opportunity to do so at a later date.
A lawyer will be able to advise you on how to proceed. Once you have obtained advice about the issues we have discussed, you will be able to make an informed decision.
Mary T. Satterfield, LL.B., MSW, C.Med., is a lawyer, social worker, mediator, and teacher who practices family and estate law exclusively. She is the co-author of two books for non-lawyers — Law for Social Workers: A Canadian Guide and The Law and Volunteers.