Causes for Breakdown in Marriages in Alberta

Causes for Breakdown in Marriages in Alberta

In accordance with the Divorce Act, in order to be granted a divorce in Alberta, married couples must prove to the courts that their marriage has broken down irreparably. There are three legal reasons, or "grounds," on which Canadians may file for divorce. These are:

  • Separation
  • Adultery
  • Cruelty

If you are considering divorce and are unsure on which grounds you should file, an Alberta divorce lawyer may be able to help you decide what is best for your situation.


Typically, the most straightforward and inexpensive way to obtain a divorce in Canada is to file on the grounds of separation. To be granted a divorce on the grounds of separation, spouses must have lived apart for at least one year. This does not necessarily mean that couples need to reside in different dwellings during the year-long separation. If couples sleep in separate rooms, eat meals separately, maintain different schedules, and can otherwise prove that they have been living apart, their living arrangement might qualify as a legal separation.

In cases where spouses  have reached a mutual agreement regarding key issues related to their divorce, including child custody, child and spousal support, and the distribution of property, assets, and debts, their divorce might be considered “uncontested.” With no disputes to resolve, separated couples can finalize their uncontested divorce without making a court appearance. By working with an Alberta divorce lawyer, separated couples filing for an uncontested divorce may be able to complete the process in an efficient, timely, and inexpensive manner.


To file for divorce on the grounds of adultery, a spouse must provide the court with credible evidence that their partner had sexual relations with someone outside of the relationship. When filing on the grounds of adultery, a spouse can circumvent the one-year separation period and initiate divorce proceedings immediately.

That said, typical courtroom waiting times can often delay divorce proceedings for a year or more. Additionally, going to court to prove adultery can be expensive and emotionally challenging. In many cases, even if infidelity played a role in the marriage breakdown, couples choose to file on the grounds of separation. A spouse who has cheated on their partner cannot file for divorce on the grounds of adultery.

Physical and Mental Cruelty

To file for divorce on the grounds of cruelty, a spouse must provide the court with evidence that their partner has committed at least one act of domestic or family violence and demonstrate how this abuse has caused an irreparable breakdown of the marriage. 

According to the government of Alberta, family and domestic violence is an abuse of power within a family or an intimate relationship. The abuse can jeopardize the physical, emotional, and psychological safety of the abuser’s spouse or other family members.

Similar to filing for divorce on the grounds of adultery, filing on the grounds of cruelty can be expensive. These kinds of divorce proceedings can take years to resolve, and are often emotionally retraumatizing. Since the history of abuse would not necessarily impact the amount of spousal or child support granted to the victims of domestic cruelty, it may not always be in the family’s best interests to file for divorce on these grounds.

Contact Verhaeghe Family Lawyers Today

If you are considering divorce, our Edmonton divorce lawyers may be able to help you understand what options might be available to you. Contact us today for more information and to schedule a consultation.

* Please note that the information in this article is not intended as legal advice but rather as a general overview of family law. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with a lawyer.

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