Desk Order or Uncontested Divorce: what is it and how much does it cost?Jan 8 2024
What is it?
In British Columbia, we have a process for obtaining divorce by “desk order” which really just means that everything is filed with the court but no one has to physically go to court to speak to the judge. Sometimes it is also referred to as an “uncontested” or “undefended” divorce.
A desk order is typically a cost-effective way to obtain a divorce but it is not suitable for all situations. In order to proceed by desk order, generally the “bigger issues” need to have been resolved in writing or by court order including parenting, child support, spousal support and the division of assets and debts. In particular, the court needs to be satisfied that any children of the relationship are taken care of before it will consider the application for divorce.
What is needed?
- An original, government-issued marriage certificate. That is, it cannot be one provided by a religious or other body. If you need to order one from Vital Statistics here is a link to do so: Marriage Certificates – Province of British Columbia (gov.bc.ca).
- Proof that you or your spouse have been living in BC for at least one year (and continue to live in BC) before initiating the divorce process.
- Information about you, your spouse and any children of the relationship or who one of you may have stepped into the position of a parent for.
- Details of your marriage and separation. You must have been separated for at least one year before you can file for divorce. This does not necessarily mean living in separate residences, but it must be clear that the marriage relationship was over.
- Information about any arrangements or orders in place between you and your spouse for spousal support, parenting, child support, the division of assets and/or debts.
What is the timeline?
This one is unfortunately nearly impossible to say. The benefit of desk orders is that it is less costly, but the negative is that the timeline for obtaining the order is highly variable. We have submitted applications and heard back within a couple of weeks and at other times it has taken several months. It all depends on the workload of the court registry and the judges available to review the materials.
The first step is we file and serve a Notice of Family Claim. It typically just takes a couple of days to get it back from the court as filed. Service can then be simple (your spouse may attend our office and a legal assistant serves them) or complicated (we have to track your spouse down with a private investigator). After your spouse is successfully served, we must wait for 30 days before we can proceed with the application for divorce.
After the 30 days have passed, if no response was filed, we prepare the application for divorce. In order to finalize the materials, we will need you to come into our office to swear one or two affidavits (depending on if there are children).
For our part, if we have all of the materials above and assuming your spouse does not contest the divorce, we should be able to have the application for divorce completed in a couple of months. This may be delayed if we have a trial or an urgent matter, like child abduction, comes up where all hands may need to be on deck. Once the completed application is with the court, we just have to wait.
Once the divorce order has been granted, it takes 31 days to be in effect. The whole process typically takes 4-6 months.
What does it Cost?
We charge a flat rate of $2,000 plus taxes and disbursements to file for a desk order divorce where there are no children involved. If there are children involved and you already have an adequate agreement or court order in place involving parenting time and child support, our rate is $2,500 plus taxes and disbursements. The disbursements are fees paid by us on your behalf, including printing and service charges (where a private investigator’s costs could come in), and filing fees charged by the court which amount to approximately $350 (for the Notice of Family Claim, making the final divorce application and ordering a Certificate of Divorce if you would like one).
I Need my Divorce Quicker
If you need your divorce to be finalized quicker as you are getting remarried then this would not be suitable for the desk order process. While the divorce may be uncontested, it would require us going to court to get before a judge quicker. This would be charged at our hourly rates and subject to availability.
The more you and your spouse have come to an agreement on, the easier a quick divorce is. We strongly recommend you get legal advice throughout the process to ensure you understand your rights and obligations where there has been a marital breakdown. We can provide guidance behind the scenes as well as are happy to prepare a separation agreement.
STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?
We regularly assist families with both contested and uncontested divorces and relationship breakdowns. Please contact our office at 604.853.0774 to meet with a member of our Family Law Team, who will help guide you through this process.