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Federal law applies to married spouses who are seeking a divorce and is the same throughout Canada. When a court grants a divorce, the marriage is ended. The Divorce Act sets out how a divorce can be obtained. It also deals with matters related to divorce, such as parenting arrangements and financial (child and spousal) support. The Divorce Act provisions on parenting arrangements and support are very similar to Manitoba law. Amendments to the Divorce Act that came into effect March 1, 2021 made some changes to the law and terminology respecting parenting arrangements. A new Manitoba law called The Family Law Act came into effect July 1, 2023 and includes similar changes to the law and terminology respecting parenting arrangements. For more information and options on how to proceed with a divorce, visit the Resolution section of our website.

What are Grounds for Divorce?

Spouses cannot obtain a divorce simply by agreeing to it. The court must be given proof that marriage breakdown has occurred. Marriage breakdown is the sole ground for divorce, but it can be established in one of three ways:

  • separation of one year or more;
  • adultery; OR
  • mental or physical cruelty

Separation of one year or more

Either or both spouses may apply for a divorce on the ground of marriage breakdown, due to a separation of a year or more. The separation does not have to be a joint decision. It does not matter if only one spouse wants the separation, as long as a separation actually occurred.

A Petition for Divorce can be filed in court before the full year of separation has passed, as long as the spouses are actually separated at the time the divorce petition is filed. The court cannot grant the divorce until the spouses have been separated a full year, but filing the petition early means it can proceed more quickly after the year has elapsed.

The required year of separation is not broken if the parties live together (cohabit) again in an attempt to reconcile, for no more than 90 days in total.


A spouse can seek a divorce at any time if the other spouse has committed adultery (i.e., the spouse voluntarily had sexual intercourse with another person). Even if spouses are separated from each other, voluntary sexual intercourse with another person is adultery and can be used by the other spouse to ask for a divorce.

The spouse does not need to be separated to apply. The spouse must prove to the court that the adultery took place.


A spouse can also seek a divorce at any time on the basis that the spouse has been treated with cruelty by the other spouse. Cruelty can include acts of physical violence and causing severe mental anguish. The spouse applying for the divorce must prove that the cruelty took place, that it seriously affected them, and that it made living together unbearable.