Family, Estates & Trusts 



How To Get a Divorce in BC Without a Lawyer

Can you get divorced without a lawyer in BC? It is possible to file for divorce without hiring a divorce lawyer, but first you must meet certain requirements and fully understand your rights and responsibilities. Here is what you need to know if you are thinking about DIY divorce.

Understanding Divorce Laws in British Columbia

Understanding Divorce Laws in British Columbia

Apply to the BC Supreme Court for a divorce

A divorce order is the only way to legally end your marriage. To get a divorce order in BC, you must apply to the Supreme Court—even if you and your spouse have settled all your family law issues (e.g., property, debt, support, and parenting).

If you have settled all issues arising from your marriage and only need a divorce order, a BC Supreme Court judge can grant your divorce order without you setting foot in a courtroom.

Grounds for divorce

To be eligible for a divorce, you must prove that your marriage has broken down. The Divorce Act contains only three reasons for marriage breakdown: living separate and apart from your spouse for at least a year (also known as “no fault” divorce), adultery, and mental or physical cruelty.

If you aren’t planning to apply for a no fault divorce, you should consult with a divorce lawyer. To get a divorce using either of the other two grounds, you must use the contested divorce process and provide evidence to substantiate your claims of adultery or cruelty. You should also be aware that in reality, BC courts almost never entertain applications for divorce based on adultery or cruelty.  The no-fault process is much simpler and easy to satisfy.

Deciding on the Type of Divorce

Deciding on the Type of Divorce

Uncontested divorce application

You can apply for an uncontested divorce only after you and your spouse have resolved all family law issues, including making reasonable arrangements for parenting and child support. This type of divorce is also known as an undefended divorce or desk order divorce. Using the uncontested divorce process, you can get a divorce order without having to appear in front of a judge and without setting foot in a courtroom.

Sole uncontested divorce application

Either spouse can apply for a desk order divorce. When one spouse starts the application on their own and then serves the other spouse, knowing their spouse won’t contest the application, the process is called a sole application for an uncontested divorce. 

Joint divorce application

Spouses can apply for a desk order divorce together by bringing a joint application for an uncontested divorce. The spouses both fill out and sign the forms and one or both of them files the divorce application at the Supreme Court registry.

Contested divorce application

The contested divorce process must be used if spouses have not settled all issues arising from their marriage and/or do not agree on the grounds for divorce. A contested divorce is also called a “defended divorce.” One spouse files a Notice of Family Claim, and the other spouse files a Response to Family Claim.  

You should consult with a divorce lawyer if your divorce is contested. The issues at stake and procedure involved are complex, and a trial will be necessary if you and your spouse aren’t able to resolve issues on your own through negotiation or mediation.

6 Steps for a Do-It-Yourself Divorce

6 Steps for a Do-It-Yourself Divorce

1. Assess the complexity of your case

Do you still need to sort out property issues, parenting plans, support issues, etc.? Are you planning to use cruelty or adultery as the grounds for divorce? If you answered yes to either of those questions, a DIY divorce may not be right for you. 

2. Gather relevant information and documents

You need certain supporting documents and information to complete a divorce application, including an original of your Marriage Certificate or a certified true copy of your registration of marriage, a copy of your Separation Agreement (if you have one), and any relevant court orders (for example, if you brought a family court case in Provincial Court to settle all issues, and are now applying for a divorce order in the Supreme Court).

If you married in BC, you can request your Marriage Certificate from BC’s Vital Statistics Agency using this information

3. Fill out court forms

Fill out court forms

If you are applying for a sole desk order divorce, you must fill out a Notice of Family Claim (Form F3) and a Registration of Divorce Proceedings form. If you are applying for a joint divorce, you must fill out a Notice of Joint Family Claim (Form F1) and a Registration of Divorce Proceedings form. Ensure that forms are complete and accurate—if they aren’t the Court Registry will refuse to accept them for filing.

You can find blank BC Supreme Court’s forms here

4. File your documents and pay filing fees

Take three copies of all court forms and supporting documents to the most convenient BC Supreme Court Registry for filing. You will have to pay court fees to file your divorce application; at the time of writing, the fee is $210.

5. Serve the divorce application on your spouse

Your filed divorce application must be served by personal service. You can’t personally serve your spouse—someone else who is at least 19 years old must serve it for you. It can be friend or relative, or you can hire a professional process server. The person who serves the divorce application must swear an affidavit of service (Form F15).

Once service has taken place, you must wait 30 days before moving to the next step. If you filed a joint application, you don’t need to serve your spouse or wait 30 days.

6. Apply for a divorce order if your spouse doesn’t respond

Apply for a divorce order if your spouse doesn’t respond

Once the 30 days are up, if there is no response filed by your spouse, you can then apply for a divorce order by submitting the final round of forms, including an Affidavit — Desk Order Divorce (Form F38), a Child Support Affidavit (Form F37) if you have dependent children, a Requisition (Form F17), a Certificate of Pleadings (Form F36), and a draft Final Order (Form F52). You will need a lawyer or notary to commission your Affidavits.

Again, be sure that your forms are complete and accurate—if they aren’t the Court Registry will refuse to accept them for filing. When you file these forms with the Court Registry, you will again need to pay filing fees, which are $80 as of the time of writing.

A judge will review all your filed materials and if satisfied, will sign your divorce order. If the judge reviews your filed materials and is not satisfied that there are proper financial arrangements in place for your children, you may have to appear in court.

The Court Registry will notify you when your signed divorce order is ready. You must serve a copy of the divorce order on your former spouse as soon as possible using ordinary service (e.g., mail, fax, email).

The bottom line on Do-It-Yourself Divorce in BC

Getting a divorce in BC can absolutely be done without a lawyer. However, contacting a divorce lawyer is the best way to ensure that your rights, your children, your assets, and your future are protected.

Onyx Law Group is here to help. Our experienced Vancouver divorce lawyers can help you navigate the legal system and achieve a fair result for you and your family. Reach out to Onyx Law Group today at (604) 305-2923 to get trusted advice and a clear plan for securing your divorce order. 

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Onyx Law Group represents clients in family law, estate and trust litigation, estate planning and probate matters. Consult with our experienced team at 
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