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Ontario Divorce Certificates: How to Obtain and Why You Need Them

What is a Divorce Certificate?

To understand what a divorce certificate entails, it’s important to distinguish it from other documents associated with the dissolution of marriage:

  • Divorce Order: This is the document issued by the court initially granting the divorce. The divorce order becomes effective on the 31st day after the order is made.
  • Divorce Decree: In some jurisdictions, the terms “divorce decree” and “divorce order” are used interchangeably. However, traditionally, a divorce decree is the final, detailed order that includes all the terms of the divorce, signed and sealed by the court.    
  • Divorce Certificate: Unlike the detailed orders or decrees, the divorce certificate is a simplified document. It does not include particulars such as the reasons for the divorce or the terms of settlement. Its primary purpose is to serve as proof that the individuals are legally divorced and free to marry again. The certificate will typically show the names of both parties, the case file number, and the date the divorce was finalized.

The Specific Information Included on a Divorce Certificate in Ontario

In Ontario, a divorce certificate is issued by the Superior Court of Justice or the Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice, depending on where the divorce was processed. The certificate includes:

  • Full names of both parties involved in the divorce.
  • Case file number: This is unique to your divorce proceedings and can be used to retrieve other documents related to your case.
  • Date of divorce finalization: This is the date when the divorce became legally effective, following the waiting period after the divorce order.

Why You Need a Divorce Certificate

Here are some of the key reasons why a divorce certificate is indispensable:

  • Legal Proof of Divorce for Remarriage: If you plan to remarry, the marriage license office will require a divorce certificate as proof that your previous marriage has been legally dissolved. Without this document, you cannot legally enter into a new marriage in Canada or most other countries.
  • Changing One’s Name: Returning to a maiden name or changing to a new name after a divorce often requires a divorce certificate. Government agencies and private organizations typically require this document as proof of divorce before processing a name change request.
  • Updating Legal Documents: After a divorce, it is necessary to update your marital status on various legal documents, including your passport, driver’s license, social insurance number, and health records. A divorce certificate is required by many agencies as proof of your new marital status to update these records.
  • Financial Arrangements: Settling financial matters such as loans, mortgages, and banking details often requires proof of divorce. Financial institutions might need a divorce certificate to update account information or to reassess financial arrangements based on your current marital status.

How to Obtain a Divorce Certificate in Ontario

Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide on how to request a divorce certificate in the province:

Step 1: Determine Where to Apply

You can request a divorce certificate from the specific court where the divorce was finalized or through the online government portal provided by ServiceOntario. The choice depends on your preference for in-person or online services.

  • ServiceOntario: For most people, the easiest and quickest way is to apply online through the ServiceOntario portal.
  • Court Office: If you prefer or if you need other documents related to the divorce, you can go directly to the court where the divorce was granted.

Step 2: Gather Necessary Documentation and Identification

Before you apply for a divorce certificate, you will need to gather the necessary documentation and identification to verify your identity and your eligibility to receive the certificate:

  • Case File Number: This number is essential and can be found on the original divorce order or any legal document related to the divorce proceedings.
  • Full Names of Both Parties: You will need the full legal names as they appeared on the divorce documents.
  • Date of the Divorce: Know the exact date when the divorce was finalized.
  • Identification: A valid government-issued ID (like a driver’s license or passport) is necessary to confirm your identity during the application process.

Step 3: Complete the Application Process

Here’s how you can complete the application, whether online or in person:

  • Online Application:
  • Visit the ServiceOntario website and locate the section dedicated to ordering a divorce certificate.
  • Complete the application form by entering all required details accurately, including the case file number, names, and the date of the divorce.
  • Upload copies of the necessary identification documents.
  • Pay the fee online. The fees can vary depending on how quickly you need the document and whether you require any special delivery options.
  • Submit the application and wait for the certificate to be mailed to you. Processing times can vary, but you will generally receive the certificate within a few weeks.
  • In-Person Application:
  • Visit the courthouse where your divorce was processed. It’s advisable to call ahead and check on the specific requirements or times when you can apply.
  • Fill out the necessary application forms available at the court. Court staff can help if you have questions about the forms.
  • Provide copies of your identification and any other required documents.
  • Pay the applicable fee at the court. Payment methods may vary by location, so it’s a good idea to confirm acceptable payment types beforehand.
  • The court will process your application, and you can either pick up the certificate in person or have it mailed to your address.

Fees for Obtaining a Divorce Certificate

The cost of obtaining a divorce certificate in Ontario varies depending on the service options and the delivery method chosen. Here are the general fees:

  • Standard Service: The fee for a standard request is approximately $15 to $25. This service is suitable for those who do not require expedited processing.
  • Expedited Service: For those needing their divorce certificate more quickly, expedited service options are available but come at a higher cost. These fees can range from $30 to $45, depending on how quickly you need the document.

Additional charges may apply if you require the document to be shipped outside of Canada or if you are requesting a certified copy. Always check the most current fees on the ServiceOntario website or at the courthouse where you are applying, as these fees can change.

Expected Processing Times

The processing time for obtaining a divorce certificate in Ontario can vary based on several factors, but here are the general expectations:

  • Standard Processing: Typically, it takes about 10 to 15 business days from the time of application if you are applying through ServiceOntario. This time frame includes both processing your request and mailing the certificate to your address.
  • Expedited Processing: If you opt for expedited service, you can expect to receive your divorce certificate more quickly, usually within 5 to 10 business days, depending on the specific service level chosen.

Factors That Might Affect Processing Times

Several factors can influence how quickly you receive your divorce certificate in Ontario:

  • Application Accuracy: Errors in the application can lead to delays. Ensure all information provided is accurate and complete to avoid processing interruptions.
  • Volume of Requests: High demand periods, such as after holiday seasons or during certain times of the year, can slow down processing times due to the increased volume of requests.
  • Postal Delays: External factors such as postal service delays can extend the time it takes to receive your certificate, especially if standard mail services are used.
  • Method of Application: Applying online through ServiceOntario is generally faster than applying in person or by mail, where processing and mailing times can add to the overall duration.

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