When things don’t work out: Getting separated or divorced in MB

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Ending a relationship is hard. It can take an emotional (and physical) toll on you and your partner/spouse. You have to think hard and consider many things. And, if you have children, there will be even more to consider.

If you are a newcomer considering separation or divorce, the information below can help you make a more informed decision. Here’s how to proceed:

What is the difference between separation and divorce?

Based on Manitoba Family Law, if you are married and decide to separate, you are still considered legally married even if there is a court order of separation. Manitoba Law will apply to you on matters such as parenting arrangements (custody), financial support, or division of property. This law also applies to common-law relationships. Common-Law couples are those who live together in marriage-like relationships but are not legally married. They can also register their status as common-law with the Vital Statistics Agency but it is voluntary.

Federal Law applies to married spouses seeking divorce. Once you are granted a divorce, your marriage is ended. The Divorce Act will guide you on matters regarding parenting arrangements, financial support, and others. The Divorce Act also states that you have to meet three eligibility criteria to apply:

  1. You were legally married in Canada or in any other country.
  2. You intend to separate permanently from your spouse or have left your spouse already. You do not believe that there is a possibility that you will get back together.
  3. You and/or your spouse have lived in Manitoba for at least a year before your application.

To be granted a divorce, you have to prove that marriage breakdown has occurred. You can establish this in three ways:

  • separation for one year or more
  • adultery, or
  • mental and physical cruelty

Petitioners will be asked to show evidence or proof.

How do I get separated or divorced?

Consulting someone would be a wise decision for newcomers seeking separation or divorce. One option would be to go to your nearest settlement service agency. They can direct you to appropriate services depending on your situation. You can get referrals for counselling, legal help, or other types of support. You can also go to this page to check agencies you can ask help from: Help for immigrants (if you are in an abusive relationship and are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1). After your initial consultation, a case worker or lawyer will help you go through the next steps.

What are your rights when you are separated or divorced?
You may have a right to economic support or property whether you are separating or getting divorced. This will depend on many factors. The court will consider how long you were together; functions you and your partner performed during the time you lived together; existing agreements or orders; financial means, earnings or earning capacity of each; financial needs; standard of living; any other obligations to support children or others; property settlement; and whether the relationship has an effect on you or your partner’s earning capacity or financial status.

You will need to establish agreements regarding:

  • Parental arrangements (custody and access)
  • Financial support
  • Division of family property
  • The right to live in the family home
  • Responsibility for family debts
  • Estate rights on the death of the spouse

It is best to consult a lawyer. Each couple’s situation is unique and laws can change (in fact, changes to the Federal Divorce Act were enacted just recently, in 2021). Relying on hearsay or advice from someone who went through separation or divorce may not be enough and will not be advantageous for you. For resources or legal assistance, go to the Family Law Manitoba website. It has the latest information on Family Law matters.

How will this affect my immigration status?
If you are a Permanent Resident, you cannot lose your immigration status or be removed from Canada because of separation or divorce. Additionally, if you have been sponsored by your spouse to immigrate to Canada (and are already a PR), know that the Government of Canada has removed Conditional Permanent Residence. This was a condition that required spouses or partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents to live with their sponsor in order to keep their permanent resident status. This was removed in April 2017. If you have other doubts or questions about your particular situation or immigration status, consult your lawyer or ask for legal aid.

Article updated May 12, 2022.
Sources: Family Law booklet; Divorce Act; Spousal support in Manitoba, presentation by Community Legal Education. All accessed August 3, 2017.

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Community Resources

Read What is family violence and how to get help if you feel that you need support in your situation.

Do you need legal help? provides links to free resources and legal aid in Manitoba.

For more information about regulations and programs related to family and the legal system, go to this link: Family Law

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