Embarking on the journey of marriage is undoubtedly one of life’s most joyous and significant milestones. However, amidst the excitement and anticipation, it is important to pause and consider the legal ramifications that come with marriage. Marriage is more than a union of hearts; it is a legal contract between two parties that brings about a myriad of rights, responsibilities, and implications.

What requirements need to be met to be able to get married?

Ontario’s Marriage Act explains all the crucial requirements for a legal marriage in Ontario. The Act provides that a person must be 18 years old to get a marriage license. The Act states that a person seeking to marry must have mental capacity to do so. If they do not (for instance, if they are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs), no marriage license can be issued, or if the license is already issued, the marriage cannot be solemnized.

Who may conduct a wedding ceremony?

Whether you are getting married on a beach, at City Hall, or in a hotel ballroom, a few things need to happen during your ceremony to ensure you actually get legally married.

To get legally married, an officiant must conduct your ceremony and solemnize your marriage. For a civil wedding, the Act permits a judge, associate judge, justice of the peace or a municipal clerk to officiate your wedding. A municipal clerk may also allow a delegated authority to officiate your wedding. Similarly, someone who has been ordained or appointed according to a religious body (such as a priest, rabbi or imam) may solemnize a marriage.

What if you have been married before?

If you have been previously married, there are a few extra legal steps to consider before you can marry again. Under the Act, if you were married and are divorced or the marriage was annulled in a manner recognized in Ontario, you are able to get married again.

If you were divorced in Canada or your marriage was annulled in Canada, you will have to provide:

  • The final decree or judgment dissolving or annulling the previous marriage;
  • A copy of the final decree, judgment or Act dissolving or annulling the previous marriage certified by the proper officer; or
  • A certificate of divorce issued by the registrar under the Rules of Civil Procedure.

If your divorce was finalized in a different country, the Act sets out a few additional steps to follow, including receiving authorization from the provincial government. To get that authorization, the Ontario Government requires you to send the following documents:

  • A marriage license application form that you have filled out and includes your signature;
  • A statement of sole responsibility from the divorce that is signed by you, your future spouse, and a witness;
  • A legal opinion letter from a lawyer in Ontario that outlines why the divorce should be recognized in Ontario; and
  • A divorce decree or annulment from your previous marriage. If the divorce decree or annulment is in a language other than English or French, it must be translated by a certified translator.

Should you consider a Marriage Contract?

The adage “Good fences make good neighbors” is an apt analogy when considering a marriage contract, as a good contract can be akin to a good fence. You and your future spouse may want to consider a Marriage Contract depending on your circumstances. The purpose of a Marriage Contract is to outline each spouse’s rights and obligations should there be a breakdown of the relationship at any point (this could include either divorce or death). Ideally you would enter into the contract prior to marriage, but many people enter into them after they have already married.

Examples of issues that can be dealt with in a Marriage Contract include:

Marriage Contracts will not address parenting issues, as those issues will be dealt with at the time of a breakdown of the relationship, depending on the best interests of the child at that time. As well, a Marriage contract will not restrict either spouse’s right to possession of a matrimonial home. As for support provisions – most notably with respect to spousal support, it is open to a court to set aside support provisions should a court determine that the Marriage Contract terms with respect to support are not fair, depending on the parties’ circumstances at the time that they separate.

Contact Boulby Weinberg LLP in Toronto for Advice on Marriage Contracts

Getting a Marriage Contract can help lessen disputes that arise when spouses separate and may have the added effect of knowing what to expect if and when a relationship does not work out. The skilled family law lawyers at Boulby Weinberg LLP can assist you with legal considerations in the lead-up to your marriage. Whether you are considering a Marriage Contract or have questions about second marriages, contact us online or contact us by phone at 647-494-0113 ext. 102 to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team.