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What are the legal requirements to divorce in Alberta?

Getting divorced can involve more legal nuances than people expect; it's not as simple as signing a piece of paper and going your separate ways.

There are specific requirements to meet and steps to take before you can legally divorce in Alberta. Knowing what these are can help you plan accordingly. 

Residency requirements, living apart

First, you should know that to start a divorce in Alberta, you must have lived in Alberta for a year. If you do not meet this requirement, you may need to start the legal process elsewhere.

Further, while you can file for divorce at any time, you must have been living separately from your spouse for at least a year for the courts to grant a divorce, though there are other options we will discuss below.

This typically means living in separate residences. Though, you could also continue living together and still meet this requirement if you have separate bedrooms, have no sexual relationship and essentially lead separate domestic and social lives.

Reconciliation

There are couples who reconcile during a period of separation. If you do, the clock will start over on the one-year separation should you decide to separate again.

However, if the reconciliation occurs within the first 90 days of a separation and does not last longer than 90 days, you do not have to restart the clock.

Other grounds for divorce

If you have not lived separately for a year, you still have options to secure a court order granting you a divorce. 

Adultery and cruelty can be grounds to seek a divorce without living apart for a year. In other words, if either party can prove to the courts that one of you has been unfaithful or cruel to the other person (through physical or emotional abuse, for example), then the courts can grant a divorce right away.

Knowing your legal options

Understanding that it takes time -- or truly unfortunate circumstances -- to divorce in Alberta is crucial in assessing your options and timeline going forward. For instance, you cannot get remarried just because you file for divorce. It can take at least a year for the courts to grant a divorce.

Therefore, having accurate legal information and legal counsel can help to correct faulty assumptions and allow you to better plan ahead. 

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