Separation and Divorce

Separation of Common-Law Couples: The Court Process: Main Steps


When common-law couples separate and can’t agree on the issues they must settle, they can ask a judge to decide for them. There are three main steps in the court process.

1. The Originating Application

The court process starts when one of the partners files an originating application in the office of the court. This is a document that says what the partner is asking for, such as child support, child custody, a decision about money or the couple’s property.

At the same time, the partner can make a formal request for a safeguard order. This is a request for the judge to decide issues that must be settled right away.

The other partner is officially notified of the requests. This is called service.

2. Presenting the Requests to a Judge

A document called a notice to appear is attached to the requests. The notice tells the other partner the date when the request will be made to the judge.

A request for a safeguard order can be heard quickly. It can be presented to a judge at least three days after being sent to the other partner, unless there is an emergency. The originating application must be presented to a judge at least 10 days after service.

3. The Hearing

The hearing takes place a few months after the originating application was filed. All documents must be ready before the partners can get a date for the hearing. At the hearing, the judge will listen to both partners. The judge then has one month to make a decision.

If you have children . . .
Before you can get a hearing date, you must attend an information session on parenting and mediation. In some cases, you might be entitled to free mediation sessions.