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Do-it-yourself divorce

Having concrete proof of adultery was once the only way to get a divorce in Canada. That meant a detective's photograph of a cheating husband. Or witnesses in a dirty motel room. Then in 1968, a new divorce law gave couples trapped in bad marriages an easy way out. The law started a divorce trend that continues to this day, in a time when it's so simple to break the knot, you can even do it online.

If you're lucky, $600 to $1,000 will get you a divorce in Moncton, New Brunswick. That's if it's uncontested. Then there's Nancy Hartling's way - with $140 and a divorce kit. Hartling compares her do-it-yourself divorce to getting her driver's license.

"You study the book first and then you go through the process," she explains in this CBC TV clip.

Office-supply stores, libraries and booksellers across the country now stock divorce kits for amateurs. Since 1990, they've been so popular that Moncton suppliers can't keep them on the shelves. 
. In 2002, filing for a divorce online became possible in Canada. An American company called CompleteCase.com helped 600 couples speed up their divorce cases in its first six months of availability in Canada.
. In 2003, CompleteCase.com and LegalZoom.com boasted over 20,000 divorce cases.
. It costs about $200, minus the court filing expenses, to get a divorce online. Getting an uncontested divorce through a lawyer can cost up to $1,400.

. A contested divorce with a lawyer can set you back $80,000.
. In 1999, a Statistics Canada report found that 7.1 million adults were still single. A decade earlier, the figure was nearly 20 per cent lower.
. A study one year later found 12 per cent of couples chose common law arrangements over marriage and that 50 per cent of children will be not be raised in a conventional family unit.
. In 1994, British television developed a reality game show called Divorce Me.

. Couples would compete to divide assets by answering questions about each other and their relationships. Spouses with the highest number of correct answers got to keep the family car or house.
. Under British law there is no such thing as a common law marriage.
. A machine called QuickCourt makes it easier and cheaper to get divorced in the United States. QuickCourt kiosks are much like bank machines that print off court-approved divorce documents.

. Couples using the machine are asked by a recorded voice that sounds like a judge whether their marriage can be salvaged. If the answer is no, they'll receive divorce papers for just $10. The same process done through a lawyer costs at least $100. Listen to a radio clip about QuickCourt.
Medium: Television
Program: NB Now
Broadcast Date: Dec. 11, 1998
Guest(s): Nancy Hartling, Nuella Richard
Reporter: Megan Venner
Duration: 1:04

Last updated: November 23, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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