Divorce 101

Understanding Divorce Laws in Ontario: Grounds, Duration, and Consent

Written by Russell Alexander ria@russellalexander.com / (905) 655-6335

Navigating the path of divorce can be complex and emotionally taxing. For residents of Ontario facing this challenging journey, understanding the province’s divorce laws is crucial. This article delves into the grounds for divorce, the typical duration of the process, and the question of spousal consent, providing you with the knowledge needed to navigate this difficult time.

Grounds for Divorce in Ontario

In Canada, including Ontario, the Divorce Act governs the reasons you can legally end a marriage. Unlike some jurisdictions with fault-based divorce systems, Canada allows for no-fault divorces. The three primary grounds for divorce are:

  1. Separation: The most common ground is living separate and apart for at least one year. This period is intended as a time for reflection and reconciliation. Importantly, couples can be considered “separated” while living under the same roof, provided they live separate lives.
  2. Adultery: If one spouse has committed adultery, the other spouse can file for divorce without waiting a year. However, proving adultery can be complex and invasive, and the accusing spouse cannot have condoned or encouraged the adultery.
  3. Cruelty: Mental or physical cruelty that makes continued cohabitation intolerable can also be grounds for an immediate divorce. Like adultery, cruelty must be proven, and the threshold is quite high.

Duration of the Divorce Process

The duration of the divorce process in Ontario varies significantly depending on several factors:

  • Uncontested vs. Contested: An uncontested divorce, where both parties agree on major issues like property division, support, and child custody, can be quicker. Contested divorces, where such matters are in dispute, take longer due to negotiations and potential court hearings.
  • Mandatory Waiting Period: Even in uncontested cases, a mandatory waiting period exists. After filing for divorce, a period (usually a few months) is required before the divorce is finalized. This is in addition to the one-year separation period if that is your ground for divorce.
  • Complexity of Issues: The complexity of issues like asset division, spousal support, and child custody can extend the duration. More complex cases require more negotiation and potentially court time.

Consent in Divorce Proceedings

A common misconception is that both spouses must agree for a divorce to occur. In reality, if one spouse wants a divorce and the grounds are met (most commonly one year of separation), they can obtain it without the other’s consent.

Daniela Di Rezze, Associate Lawyer

While it’s advantageous for both parties to agree on the divorce terms to expedite the process, a unilateral desire to divorce is sufficient under Canadian law.

Navigating Your Divorce in Ontario

Understanding the legal landscape is just the first step. It’s also essential to:

  • Consult a Lawyer: A family lawyer can provide personalized advice and guide you through the complexities of the divorce process.
  • Consider Mediation: Before heading to court, consider mediation. It can be a less adversarial and more cost-effective way to resolve disputes.
  • Take Care of Yourself: Divorce is an emotionally challenging time. Don’t hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or professional counselors.


Understanding the grounds for divorce, the typical duration, and the issue of consent is crucial for anyone considering or going through a divorce in Ontario. While the process can be daunting, knowing the legal framework provides a foundation for navigating these challenging waters. With the right knowledge and support, you can make informed decisions and work towards a future that’s best for you and your loved ones. Remember, each divorce is as unique as the individuals involved, so consult with a legal professional to understand how the law applies to your specific situation.

Stay in Touch

Keep learning about the latest issues in Ontario family law! Subscribe to our newsletter, have our latest articles delivered to your inbox, or listen to our Podcast Family Law Now.

Be sure to find out more about the "new normal", by visiting our Covid-19 and Divorce Information Centre.

About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.