There’s so much ambiguity around what exactly happens with the “Alberta divorce package” once it’s stamped (filed) and retrieved by the clerk. By the divorce package, I am referring to the final documents that are filed on a divorce application. Another term used for a divorce package is “desk application”. A desk application is a court application that does not require the appearance of parties in court. For desk applications, the Justice makes her decision about the file in an office setting at her desk!
Once the divorce package is filed, it is entered into the computer system, and placed in a queue with the rest of the packages filed on that day. Turnaround times for checking divorces can vary between one month and five. Currently, turn around times are sitting at only 6 weeks. Checking a file entails that the clerk goes through each and every desk divorce document on that file, and for the most part, check it sentence per sentence. She not only makes sure that the information is accurate; she also cross-references the information to ensure that there is no discrepancy or inconsistencies in the evidence submitted. At the end of her review, if the clerk spots too many mistakes or those that are “unforgivable”, she would reject the divorce application, and send a memo to the court filing party requesting corrections.
An example(s) of an “unforgivable” mistake is if the marriage date is wrong, or the parenting arrangement is inconsistent throughout the divorce documents. When an application is rejected, the file becomes dormant until a “refiled package” is submitted. If the clerk is, for the most part, satisfied with the file, she will fill out a report addressed to the Justice who will be making a final decision on it. This report will include a list of any minor mistakes she spots or concerns she may have. The file is then delivered to one of the Justices who looks at the clerk’s recommendations, as well as checks the file from a Justice’s perspective and either sign it, and grants the divorce, or rejects it and request more or different information from the parties.
Justices do rely heavily on the clerk’s notes but often times, they spot things in a file that are beyond a clerk’s realm of knowledge. If this file is one of the lucky ones, and it is signed, it makes its way back to the clerk’s office, where copies are certified and sent out to both parties, so they are aware of the finalization of their divorce. That’s when the journey of the Alberta Divorce Files’ ends.