A client of mine in Vancouver recently asked me what his options were in terms of obtaining an uncontested divorce or “Desk Order Divorce.” A Desk Order divorce is an uncontested divorce proceeding that lets spouses, if they have essentially agreed about all the legally important issues between them, get divorced without having to go to court.
If the only issue between the two spouses is the fact that they still happen to be married (they may have been separated for years already), then a desk order divorce will be a relatively simple and painless process. In the event that there are other issues such as children, support or assets, but the spouses know how those issues should be dealt with and just need a court order setting those arrangements down, the process is somewhat more complicated, but the desk order divorce process can handle it. If, however, the parties disagree on any important issues, then they will need to come to an agreement – preferably a written separation agreement – about these issues or go to court and go through a traditional lawsuit.
There are two procedures that can be used to obtain a desk order divorce: the sole application process and the joint application process.
The sole application process is almost identical to the process used when starting a normal contested divorce lawsuit where the parties have not agreed on how the issues between them will be resolved. The applicant files a notice of family claim at the court registry and then serves it on their spouse. The former spouse, usually after having cleared things with the applicant spouse, simply does not file a response to the claim. After the response period to filing a response is over, the applicant spouse files for a default judgement. The advantage of this process is that only one spouse really needs to do anything.
The joint application process requires that the parties work together a bit more to get things done. The joint Notice of Family Claim is first filed, which needs to be signed by both parties and sets out the orders that they want the court to make. After it is filed, both parties swear affidavits in support of the orders asked for. The advantage of this process is that it is a bit faster then the sole application.
Both processes in reality require the parties to be in agreement about any possibly contentious issues between them but both are relatively painless and should get you a divorce order within two to three months.