New Process Mandatory for Divorcing Spouses in Ontario
Effective July 18, 2011, spouses contemplating divorce are subject to new requirements implemented by the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, obliging each spouse to attend a mandatory information program or session prior to filing for divorce.
This requirement is implemented by virtue of Rule 8.1 of the Family Law Rules. Among other things, the mandatory information program provides participants with information about separation and the related legal process, and may include information on topics such as:
• The options available for resolving differences (including alternatives to going to court);
• The impact that separation may have on children; and
• The resources available to deal with problems arising from separation.
Here are some other points to note about this new initiative:
• This is a mandatory information program only; it is NOT the same as mandatory mediation for spouses.
• Spouses do not have to attend the program together.
• It only applies to spouses who are asking for something in addition to divorce (i.e. spousal support, child custody, child access or child support, division of property, and/or equalization of net family property).
• If a spouse neither contests the divorce nor attends the mandatory information session, then the other spouse can have his or her claims proceed as “uncontested”.
• If only one spouse is filing for divorce, the other spouse only has to attend a separate session if he or she contests that divorce, or else makes his or her own claims.
• The fact that one spouse does not attend a mandatory information session does not prevent the spouses from obtaining a divorce.
Once the parties have attended the mandatory information session, they can file their divorce application and proceed to court along the traditional route (with a negotiated settlement between the parties being an option along the way), or can have access to publicly-funded mediation services if they desire.
This mandatory information program has actually been in effect in Toronto for several years already, and was recently introduced in Brampton and Milton. It is now compulsory in other parts of the province as well, and there is a transitional period which culminates in full province-wide implementation in September 2011.
At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers we can provide advice on divorce and related issues such as spousal support, child custody and the division of property. We also provide advice on a full range of other family law matters. For more information, visit us at www.RussellAlexander.com