Grounds for Divorce in British Columbia

To get a divorce in British Columbia, you must prove that your marriage has broken down. To do this, you must establish that at least one of the following has taken place:

• You and your spouse have been living separately for 12 months
• Your spouse has committed adultery
• You spouse has inflicted intolerable physical or mental cruelty on you
Living separately for 12 months
Living separately for 12 months is the most commonly used reason for divorce. In a very simple world, this would mean that one spouse moves out of the matrimonial home, and after 12 months of living apart, one of you can start divorce proceedings.

However, the breakdown of a relationship is rarely simple. You may attempt periods of reconciliation, or you may not be able to afford separate households. If either of these apply, you can still use 12 months of separation as a grounds for divorce – but only in certain circumstances.

With regard to reconciliation, the law allows a period of 90 days attempted reconciliation. After this, your separation will not be viewed as ‘uninterrupted’ and the clock must reset. You’ll then have to wait another 12 months to begin divorce proceedings.

As for living in the same household, you can still be viewed as legally separated, despite living under the same roof. Often this happens when financial or childcare restrictions prevent one spouse from moving out.

In such cases you will have to prove that you have been living ‘separate and apart’. This means that to all intents and purposes, you are leading separate lives. For example, you each keep to your own area of the home, and you do not share any cooking, laundry or other household tasks.


If your spouse had extra-marital sexual relations and it was not approved by you (as may happen in an ‘open relationship’) you can get divorced on the basis of adultery.

You’ll have to prove this adultery took place, which can be difficult in a court of law – unless, of course, your spouse is willing to admit it in a legal document called an affidavit.

Because of the potential difficulties involved, some people prefer to wait until 12 months have passed and divorce on that basis instead.
Intolerable physical or mental cruelty

The final reason for divorce is that your spouse has inflicted intolerable physical and/or mental cruelty against you since your marriage.

‘Intolerable physical and mental cruelty’ is more than a heated argument or difference of opinion. Your spouse’s behaviour must be of a serious nature, so much so that you cannot continue to live together.

Like adultery, you will need to prove that such cruelty took place. The court will then decide whether or not it finds in your favour.

Divorce lawyers British Columbia

Therefore there is actually only one ground for divorce in British Columbia, and that is that your marriage has broken down. But there are three ways in which you can prove this. The one you use will depend on your individual circumstances and preferences.

For expert advice on all divorce matters, including the grounds for divorce, please contact our family lawyers at North Shore Law LLP.