- The first federal Divorce Act was passed by Parliament in 1968, establishing a uniform divorce law across Canada. Before that, there were different laws relating to divorce in different provinces and territories.
- From 1840 to 1968, many 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, in some provinces 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 six-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.
- For more historical background, see the
introduction to the Index to Canadian Parliamentary Divorces 1826-1946.
This database contains 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.
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.
The database does not include references to every divorce in Canada.
How to obtain copies of divorce acts
Each database entry provides the following details :
- Reference: the publication in which the item is found
- Year: the year of the publication
- Citation: the chapter number of the divorce act or other reference number
With that information, you can look for the publication in a library or online, or order a copy from Library and Archives Canada.
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
Aurora catalogue to find out which libraries hold copies of specific publications. Click on a publication below to open the catalogue entry, then scroll down to Libraries Worldwide.
Some volumes for some years of the above publications are digitized on the free websites
Library and Archives Canada
If you cannot find an Act online, you can order a copy from Library and Archives Canada by using our
copy services. Include the complete database entry, as well as the publication title and OCLC number from the above list.
Senate of Canada
The Senate of Canada holds the original divorce Acts for divorces that were initiated through the Senate in 1968 or earlier. 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
40 Elgin Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A4
Are you looking for your own records?
Individuals who need information about where to obtain copies of
their own divorce cases, from 1968 to the present, can contact the
Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings. Please note that privacy legislation prevents the release of information to persons other than the two parties involved.
Other records in Canada
Divorce proceedings were also handled by provincial and territorial courts. For recent divorces, the records may still be held by the court where the divorce was handled. Older court records are usually held in the provincial and territorial archives. You will find links to divorce resources in archives and courts on our
Places pages for each province and territory.
In the late 1800s, a notice of intent to petition for divorce would be placed in local newspapers and in the Canada Gazette.
Search the Canada Gazette using the keywords divorce, a surname and a place.
Index to Canadian Parliamentary Divorces 1826-1946.
Records in the United States
Some Canadians travelled to the United States to obtain a divorce there. Some divorce records and/or indexes are available online. On the free website
FamilySearch, enter the search term Divorce in the Find a Collection box. On the subscription website
www.ancestry.com, go to the Card Catalog and enter Divorce in the Title box.