Sometimes marriages do not go as planned. You may think everything is fine, even though you might be having some typical problems. Then, out of nowhere you are blindsided by your spouse who takes off, leaves the country, and informs you they are not coming back.
For you, this can be devastating both mentally and financially. You are left having to support the children, take care of all their needs, and pay all the bills. It is understandable that you can feel overwhelmed and are not sure what to do next.
Fortunately, the federal Divorce Act does allow you to get a divorce if your spouse took off and left the country. There are specific processes that still must be followed even though they are no longer in Canada. For instance, you have to live apart for one year before the divorce can be finalized.
However, that does not mean you cannot start divorce proceedings immediately. Doing so could help hold your spouse financially responsible for child support. Just because they did a runner and took off, does not relieve them of their parental responsibilities.
In Ontario, courts expect parents to contribute financially in accordance with their income towards their children. The courts use the Federal Child Support Guidelines to determine the percentage each parent needs to contribute.
If one party chooses not to participate in the process, the court will still proceed to render a decision. There should be evidence of service of documents, or attempted service. Evidence of the other party’s financial circumstances would also be helpful.
Depending on the country your spouse went to, child support payment enforcement could still be possible. There are international agreements between Canada and other countries, like the US, UK, Australia, and so on.
Your order from Canada would be recognized as an order in the other jurisdiction and then enforced as if it were a domestic order.
Applying for Divorce
To apply for divorce, you and your spouse must have lived in Ontario or elsewhere in Canada for a minimum period of one year. Your marriage also needs to be considered legal and recognized in Canada. Most importantly, the marriage must have broken down.
As long as you meet these criteria, you can start the divorce application process. Since you will be dealing with a spouse who is in another country, it is highly recommended to get help from a qualified and experienced divorce lawyer.
Your lawyer will be able to explain the divorce process in detail, explain how divorce laws apply to your circumstances, and inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities. They will also provide details about what documentation you need to provide to the court to receive your divorce and other relief.
Part of your divorce process will be to obtain an order on child support, child custody and access, spousal support, and the division of marital property and the matrimonial home. It is best if you and your spouse can reach an agreement on your own. If that is not possible, the court will make the decisions for you.