Divorce in Alberta Without Lawyers

a 40s black couple discussing divorce in alberta

“You become a spectator only. You are on the fence and your lawyer and the lawyer for your spouse are engaged in a show of power. This show is painful to watch, and one which is costing you and your spouse tens of thousands of dollars.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Nowhere is this more obvious than with divorce in Alberta.

When people find themselves at the crossroads of separation and divorce, they often have no idea what to do or how to do it. It feels a lot like uncharted territory; unknown, and unpredictable. Common questions that lead people to my website are:

  • How to prove a separation?
  • When does a Separation Agreement get filed?
  • How much child support do I get?
  • Does my wife automatically get spousal support?
  • How do we divide our belongings and assets?
  • When do we file for divorce?

You Don’t Need A Lawyer for Divorce in Alberta

A common belief is that ex-couples need lawyers to address all these questions. So one goes hires a lawyer, which means the other needs one as well.

Soon they both find themselves pulled into a legal quicksand that neither intentionally chose, or as a woman who’ve had this experience said to me; you become a spectator only. You are on the fence and your lawyer and the lawyer for your spouse are engaged in a show of power. This show is painful to watch, and one which is costing you and your spouse tens of thousands of dollars. And the worst part? The stress and pain of litigation adds to the tremendous loss you already feel and live 

Another person shared with me a feeling loss of control and helplessness. On one hand, he’s worried about the kids and their well-being. He’s trying to make the best out of a court-imposed coparenting arrangement that would not have been his choice. At the same time, he is worried about the potential child and spousal support obligations he will soon have. While he waits for the legal battle to be over, he is in freeze mode, waiting for a decision or agreement to be made. 

Lawyers Mean Time Wasted

Once each spouse has a lawyer, something as simple as exchanging financial disclosure can take months.

This is a snapshot of Alberta Courts financial disclosure process: 

  1. Spouse A’s lawyer submits a “Notice to Disclosure” Application.
  1. A’s lawyer serves the filed Notice to Disclosure Application upon Spouse B’s lawyer.
  1. Lawyers for A and B each request detailed financial disclosure from their respective clients. These include, last 3 year tax returns, investment statements, last 6 months of bank accounts and credit cards statements, and so on.  
  1. If the financial information exchange took place properly and fully, the court application is cancelled, and one lawyer will typically send the other a proposal for how their side wants to divide matrimonial property and deal with support.
  1. Usually that proposal is not satisfactory by the opposing lawyer and spouse. There begins the two lawyers’ multiple email negotiations regarding the different clauses of the proposal.  Every email exchange comes at a cost to both parties.
  1. If the two sides cannot come to agreement, both parties are required to come to a court hearing to explain to the Justice why they have not provided all their disclosure.
  1. The court application is often adjourned a few times until both parties are completely satisfied, and therefore are ready to start back at point # 4, above. Again, each court appearance comes at a cost to both parties.

Divorce Without Lawyers: Half the Time, a Third of the Cost

That is one option for initiating the divorce proceedings. Another simpler and gentler way does exist, and it looks like this:

  1. You and your spouse simply exchange financial disclosure between the two of you. Here is a copy of what information needs to be exchanged. TDS has a handy financial disclosure checklist that you can access here for the full list of what is required.
  1. The spouse who is better with Excel (or similar) inputs all the information you both shared into a spreadsheet
  1. If you’re able to have a conversation between the two of you without getting anxious and loud, sit at the kitchen table and talk about who wants to keep what, and how to divide joint property.
  1. When you’ve reached an agreement that is somewhat final, take it to a law professional who can help you turn that into a legally binding document. This document will satisfy banks if you’re transferring the home ownership to one spouse.

If you are getting stuck on step 3, that doesn’t mean you need a lawyer. A mediator is a professional neutral third party who is educated in how to get through difficult conversations like this. They help both spouses talk to each other face-to-face and avoid months or even years of expensive litigation.

At Trusted Divorce Services we call this method Constructive Divorce™. We’ve helped hundreds of couples keep their money and move forward in an emotionally healthy way. If you would like to know how we can help start you on the path to a fair and simple divorce, or salvage a divorce proceeding that has gone awry, contact us today.

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