Acts of Divorce, 1841-1968

An act for the relief of John Monteith. Statutes of Canada, 1887, chap. 129.

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Background

From 1840 to 1968, divorces in Canada were granted by private acts of the Parliament of Canada. Before 1867, only five divorce acts were passed and published either in the Statutes of the Province of Canada or in the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada.

From 1867 to 1968, a person wishing to obtain a divorce was first required to place a notice of intent to petition the government for an Act of Divorce in the Canada Gazette and in two newspapers in the district or county where the petitioner resided. It was to appear for a 6-month period.

The petition would contain details such as the date and place of the marriage, and events surrounding the demise of the marriage. In the case of adultery or bigamy, a co-respondent was often named. If the petition was allowed, Parliament would pass an Act of Divorce nullifying the marriage.

Between 1867 and 1963, a transcript of the Act was published in the Statutes of Canada for the current year. Between 1964 and 1968, the transcript was published in the Journals of the Senate of Canada.

The transcripts include this information from the petition:

  • the names of petitioner and spouse;
  • their place(s) of residence;
  • the date and place and marriage; and
  • the grounds under which the divorce is being sought.

Database

This research tool provides access to a database containing 12,732 references to the transcripts of the acts of divorce published in:

  • Statutes of the Province of Canada
  • Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada
  • Statutes of Canada
  • Journals of the Senate of Canada.

Each volume was consulted in order to identify the names of the petitioner, of the spouse and the citation number for each act.  

Database

The search screen enables you to search by:

  • Surname of Petitioner
  • Given Name(s) of Petitioner
  • Surname of Spouse
  • Given Name(s) of Spouse
  • Year

Some entries include only an initial for the given names. Try searching by surname only. Women are identified by maiden name if the maiden name was provided in the divorce act.

How to Interpret the Results

Your search results will be posted as a list showing the following fields:

  • Name of Petitioner (surname and given name)
  • Name of Spouse (surname and given name)
  • Reference (extracted from various official publications of the Government of Canada)
  • Year (the issue of the specific publication in which the act was published)
  • Citation (the number of the private act).

How to Obtain Copies of Divorce Acts

Libraries in Canada

Many libraries in Canada hold copies of the official publications of the Government of Canada that contain the acts. Each act consists of one page in English and French.

You can use the AMICUS catalogue to find out which libraries hold copies of specific publications. Click on a publication below. In AMICUS, click on "Locations," then on the library code on the left column to obtain details such as address and contact information.

Date Range Publication AMICUS No.
1841-1866 Statutes of the Province of Canada 3491267
1841-1866 Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada 6146031
1867-1872 Statutes of Canada 3438274
1873-1951 Acts of the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada (Statutes of Canada) 5911801
1952-1963 Acts of the Parliament of Canada (Statutes of Canada) 86816
1964-1968 Journals of the Senate of Canada 33173

Library and Archives Canada

You can order copies from Library and Archives Canada by using the Order Form for Photocopies and Reproductions. Include the complete reference citation from AMICUS including the AMICUS number.

Senate of Canada

The Senate of Canada holds the original divorce files, but they are closed to the public. You can obtain a certified copy of a divorce act for legal purposes from them:

Senate of Canada
Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel
Room 1310
13th Floor
40 Elgin Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A4
CANADA
Telephone: 613-992-2416

Other Resources

Divorce proceedings were also handled by the provincial courts. Consult What to Search: Divorce for additional resources.