You must apply for the certificate, as the court will not issue that without a request. Your divorce lawyer may get it for you if you want.
Why bother getting divorce records at all? The most common reason is to get a marriage license in Ontario if you intend to remarry. The requirement for a divorce certificate makes sense as it ensures your marriage is legal.
You might want to find out your divorce status and records or that of another person for other reasons. Perhaps you are a female and wish to resume your maiden name for government and other documents.
You might also be working on a genealogy project. You might want to find out another person’s relationship history or to look into their ancestry. If you are in a serious relationship, it’s understandable that you’d want to know these things.
It’s good that all Canadian provinces save for Quebec consider divorce files a matter of public record. The same applies to other civil litigation cases, such as child support.
Ontario provides public access to marital status records, though there may be restrictions to the details you can obtain. This post provides where and how you can find divorce status and records in Ontario.
Where To Find Divorce Status and Records in Ontario
The embodiment of the law for obtaining a divorce in Canada is under the federal Divorce Act and, in some cases, the Civil Marriage Act. However, provinces and territories establish the process, which may involve several laws. In Ontario, for example, a divorce may fall under the following statutes and regulations:
- Family Law Act
- Children’s Law Reform Act
- Child Support Guidelines
- The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines
Additionally, each local jurisdiction keeps its own system to access and maintain divorce records. Finding divorce files in Ontario requires submitting a request from the court where you obtained the divorce or the Archives of Ontario (Archives).
In some cases, you may need the Canadian Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings (CRDP) to obtain critical information. The requirements and level of access to divorce records will depend on the circumstances, including when a petitioner filed the divorce.
For divorces filed between 1826 and 1946
Divorce records in Canada before 1968 are not exactly easy to obtain, as you can probably imagine. The Divorce Act passed Parliament in 1968, so there was no cohesive divorce law before that.
Divorces granted from 1840 to 1968 were through acts of the Parliament of Canada. It was a long and complex process that few people were able to follow through. It was also quite expensive.
For example, anyone wishing to petition for divorce during that period had to publish a notice in the Canada Gazette. They also needed to post notices on two local papers for six months.
The good news is you can access Canada Gazette issues to find notices of divorce applications in Canada. Notices are useful for historical and genealogical research. They contain details about the marriage and events that led to the divorce petition, such as bigamy or adultery. These details include the following:
- Names of petitioner and spouse;
- Place of residence;
- Date and place and marriage; and
- The grounds for divorce
The bad news is they don’t provide divorce files. You will need to use other databases for actual divorce records and status.
One of these databases is the Statutes of Canada for transcripts of Acts of Divorce granted between 1867 and 1963. Canadiana has online versions of the Statutes for some years. You will need to go to the physical library for copies of the issue you require for all the other years. You can find out where by searching the Aurora catalogue.
You can also find the transcripts for Acts of Divorce granted between 1964 and 1968 in the Journals of the Senate of Canada. You can search each issue for mentions of “divorce” in the text. You will see petitions not granted as well, and why. However, these databases are not comprehensive. They do not include all divorce petitions in all provinces.
There is little information on divorces granted before 1867. However, for applications between 1826 and 1946, you can find the names of petitioners and spouses from the CanGenealogy site. However, the site does not provide anything more than that. Moreover, many of these applications did not result in a divorce, mainly because the process was complex and expensive.
For divorces filed between 1931 and 1986
Ontario maintains a central record of divorces of its residents from 1931 to 1980 in the Archives of Ontario (AO). Unfortunately, digital copies of divorce records are not instantly available. You must request a copy of a particular document online or by mail or visit the Reading Room by appointment.
Some divorce files from 1981 to 1986 are also in the Archives of Ontario, but most are in local courthouses. Check Table 2 of this guide (updated November 2020) to find out the location of the divorce files you want.
Please take note of this table as it will appear several times in this article. The table lists the Ontario courthouses, their addresses, and the inclusive dates of divorce records they transferred to AO. The reference term is “Table 2.”
If the issuing courthouse transferred their files to AO, you would need to obtain the divorce records you want from AO. Otherwise, you can only get these files directly from the courthouse.
For divorces filed from 1987 onwards
Divorces filed in Ontario family court from 1987 onwards are only available through the local courthouse where petitioners filed and obtained a divorce. You must know the names of the parties and the application year to get a copy of a divorce record.
You can send a request by mail or go to the local courthouse. Refer to Table 2 of the guide above to obtain the address of the local courthouse.
How To Obtain Divorce Records in Ontario
As you can probably imagine, obtaining divorce records in Ontario requires rigorous vetting. You can’t simply request a copy of these records, even your own.
The divorce status and records of an individual are available to the public but are essentially personal information. As such, privacy laws prevail, including the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. So you must first learn what you need to do to obtain divorce records in Ontario.
Library and Archives Canada
The Acts of Divorce database in the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) site contains 12,732 references to transcripts from 1841 to 1968 published in:
- Statutes of the Province of Canada
- Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada
- Statutes of Canada
- Journals of the Senate of Canada
Find the entry by filling out one or more fields on the database search page. The fields include:
- Surname of Petitioner
- Given Name(s) of Petitioner
- Surname of Spouse
- Given Name(s) of Spouse
Once you find an entry, you will obtain the following information:
- Citation: the chapter or other reference number
- Reference: the publication containing the item
- Year: the year of the publication
When you get that information, you can look for the publication in a physical library. You can use the Aurora catalogue to find which libraries hold copies of specific publications. The documents you need will not be available for online viewing. You must go to the library where they are and obtain permission to view and get a copy.
Using its copy services, you may also order a copy from Library and Archives Canada online. You will need to provide the entry information you got from LAC.
Original Acts of Divorce initiated through the Senate of Canada before 1968 is available for request. Get a certified copy for legal purposes by email or mail. Send your request (with the pertinent information) to:
Archives of Ontario
The Archives of Ontario (AO) is the largest of its kind in Canada and has been collecting documents since 1903. You can get a divorce file from AO if you can provide the following information:
- Application year
- Relevant courthouse
- File number
Check Table 2 mentioned above to determine the files you need are available in AO. If they are and you have all the required information, you can request a copy through email at [email protected] or call 416-327-1600.
However, you will need to dig a little deeper if you do not have the file number. Divorces of other people from 1968 are in the Supreme Court of Ontario indexes, from where you can obtain the file number. Consult Table 2 for the appropriate research guide (RG).
Consult the Supreme Court Registrar’s Office indexes for divorces started or granted between June 1949 and July 1968. AO holds RG 22-5816, a province-wide index to applications for divorce judgments absolute. Use it to identify the microfilm reel you need to find the case file number. This method requires a physical visit to the Archives Reading Room.
The Archives of Ontario
134 Ian Macdonald Boulevard
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
You can request a certified copy of a Decree Absolute, Judgment Absolute, or Divorce Certificate available in AO. Certified documents will cost you $33.00 plus HST. You can pick them up at AO, or it will ship them to you for an additional cost. A photocopying fee of $1.11 per page may apply if you request copies. Allow at least 14 business days to receive divorce records from AO.
Remember that you can only view and obtain copies of divorce files in the Reading Room. Because these files are in offsite storage, you must request retrieval of the file or reel one day in advance.
Use of the Reading Room also requires an appointment. You may book one in two ways, depending on your needs:
- Workstation – for accessing original records or library materials (3 days in advance); you must pre-order your materials before booking a workstation
- Microfilm reader – for viewing records on self-serve microfilm (24 hours in advance)
Additionally, you must obtain Archives of Ontario Researcher (AOR) card, valid for life unless revoked. You apply for an AOR online by filling out this form. You can claim your AOR card at the reception by presenting a valid government photo ID (Health Cards are not acceptable).
Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings
The Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings (CRDP) is the place to look for divorce filings from July 1968. The CRDP has all the divorce records and proceeding filed in Canadian courts. It can provide you with the specific court, file number, and year of a divorce case.
However, the CRDP does not provide copies of records or confirm divorce status. You need to request that from the local courthouse relevant to your case.
You can obtain information about your divorce by calling the CDRP at 613 957 4519 or 1-800-267-7676 (hearing impaired only). You can also complete, sign, and print the Search Request Form from the CRDP website and mail it to:
Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings (CRDP)
Department of Justice Canada
284 Wellington Street, Ottawa ON K1A 0H8
Be ready to provide the following information:
- Full name at birth
- Birth date
- Name and birth date of the former spouse
- Date of marriage
- Approximate date of divorce
Note that divorces started in Wentworth County (Hamilton) after 1979 requires you to contact the local courthouse for the file number. See Table 2 for contact information.
The CRDP may also provide information about another person’s divorce if you have their consent or if it is legally required. In that case, you must submit a duly completed and signed Search Request and Consent Form.
Divorce records filed from July 1968 are usually available in local courthouses. If you know the location, you can check if the documents are in the local courthouse or at the AO. If they are in the local courthouse, you can request copies of divorce records from there.
You will need the following information:
- Court file number
- Year the divorce was granted
- Divorce registry number
If you don’t know the file or the divorce registry number, you can get it from the CRDP, as described in the preceding section. When you have all the information you need, you can request your divorce certificate in the following ways:
- Sign up for or use your ONe-key account through the Justice Services Online Portal
- Go to the courthouse and ask in person (a representative can go on your behalf)
- Fill out and send Form 36B by mail to the courthouse (get the address here)
A divorce certificate comes with a $24 fee. You can pay it with a credit card or Interact debit card. If you apply by mail, you can pay by cheque or money order, payable to the Minister of Finance. Contact your local courthouse for more information.
If you cannot afford the fees for your divorce certificate, you can submit a request for a waiver to the court. The court will determine if your financial situation qualifies you for a waiver. If you do, you will receive a Fee Waiver Certificate. Present this to the court staff when they ask you to pay.
Contact the local courthouse for more information. You may also check out these helpful resources for divorce and other legal matters.
Get Your Divorce Certificate With the Help of Nussbaum Law
Divorce status and records in Ontario are available to the public. You can obtain the information you need in various ways, depending on when and where the divorce was granted. This guide provides different ways of finding divorce status and records in Ontario for all possible periods.
However, you cannot access other people’s divorce records without a good reason. That’s a problem if you must know the marital status of a prospective partner for you or a family member. After all, you cannot remarry without a divorce certificate.
In any case, you might have to go through several steps and various agencies in Canada to get them. Assuming you get approval for your request, it typically takes more than two weeks to get divorce records.
Make it easy on yourself by contacting Nussbaum Law. We have the resources, contacts, and knowledge to help you obtain divorce records and status without unnecessary delays. If you need help with or want answers about family law matters, we can also help.
There are several reasons you may need your divorce records. Contact our team of family law and divorce lawyers at Nussbaum Law today for a smoother and easier process.
FAQs on Finding Divorce Status and Records in Ontario
Can the courts seal divorce records?
Yes, but it requires a court order as per section 137(2) of the Courts of Justice Act. A party can request the restriction to public access. However, the court will only grant it to prevent a significant risk to the party’s or other parties’ rights. The test to determine the risk is outlined by the Supreme Court in R v Mentuck.
Are divorce records available to the public?
Yes, except in Quebec. All other Canadian provinces presume that civil and family litigation matters must be accessible to the public. Restricting access to court files requires meeting a high bar, i.e., balancing the benefits of limiting the public’s access and the harmful effects.
What factors can prevent public access to divorce records?
Anyone can obtain their own divorce records from the AO or CRDP. However, if you want access to another person’s divorce records, you must get that person’s consent. You can also obtain these records if it is legally required. Otherwise, you will not get approval.