You can run to Las Vegas and get married, and your marriage will be recognized as valid in Ontario. But what about a Las Vegas divorce?
It turns out that divorce is a serious matter in Canada. Under our Constitution, it falls under the federal jurisdiction, and there are strict limitations as to when a foreign divorce can be recognized.
The Divorce Act of Canada provides the following provision:
22. (1) A divorce granted, on or after the coming into force of this Act, pursuant to a law of a country or subdivision of a country other than Canada by a tribunal or other authority having jurisdiction to do so shall be recognized for all purposes of determining the marital status in Canada of any person, if either former spouse was ordinarily resident in that country or subdivision for at least one year immediately preceding the commencement of proceedings for the divorce.
In plain English, this provision prohibits people from running off to a foreign country for a weekend to get a divorce and hope that it can be recognized in Canada. The law in Canada is that at least one of the spouses must have lived in the foreign country for at least one year immediately before the start of the divorce proceeding. Needless to say, the divorce must also be granted by a competent court or tribunal in that foreign country.
If you want to get re-married in Ontario after a foreign divorce, you’ll need to satisfy the requirements stipulated under the Ontario Marriage Act:
8. (1) An applicant for a (marriage) licence who has been previously married is entitled to be issued a licence if such marriage has been dissolved or annulled and such dissolution or annulment is recognized under the law of Ontario and the applicant otherwise complies with the requirements of this Act.
(2.1) Before issuing a licence, an issuer may require a person to whom subsection (2) applies to deposit with the issuer such material as the issuer considers relevant to the proof of the divorce or annulment.
In practice, to obtain a marriage license from a municipal government, you’ll need the following in addition to the Marriage License Application:
(1) an original or a certified copy of the divorce decree,
(2) if the decree is in a language other than English or French, a translated copy together with an affidavit sworn by a certified translator,
(3) an opinion letter from a lawyer stating why the divorce decree in question should be recognized in Canada, and
(4) a Statement of Sole Responsibility (an official document) for each previously granted divorce, signed by both parties of the proposed marriage.
Remember to do this well in advance of any wedding date because it does take time to complete and, without a licence, you cannot legally get married.
Walter Drescher is a partner at the law firm of Cobb & Jones LLP.