Different Cultural Practices & Canadian Law

Varying Practices & Laws May Affect Your Ontario Divorce or Separation

At times, various cultural practices may conflict with Canadian law relating to marriage, separation, and divorce. When this happens, it is important to know how different cultural practices and the laws of other jurisdictions interact with Canadian law.

Canadian law will recognize marriages performed in other countries, provided they were valid in the country in which they were performed. If you are seeking to separate and suspect your marriage may never have been valid in the first place, you should consult with a lawyer. An Ontario family law lawyer at Feldstein Family Law Group P.C. can help you determine if you should pursue separation, or whether you can obtain an annulment.

A marriage that takes place in Canada must comply with Canadian legal requirements regarding validity. The parties must be over the age of majority (18 in Ontario), or over 16 with parental permission. In addition, the parties must freely consent to the marriage.


If your marriage was not valid, you can seek an annulment, which is a declaration that a marriage is void. When a marriage is declared void, it is declared to legally have never existed. You therefore do not need to go through the process of separation and divorce, and you are free to remarry at any time.

Another legal requirement of marriage in Canada is that both parties be present. In one Canadian case, the spouses participated in a “proxy marriage,” in which one of the spouses was not physically present. The court found that marriage to be void – in other words, no marriage ever came into existence.

Arranged Marriage

In many cultures, arranged marriages are accepted practice. Arranged marriages are perfectly legal in Canada, provided they are consented to by the parties. Forced marriages are not legal. If you have been forced into a marriage, you can apply to the court to declare the marriage void. However, in order to be seen as “forced,” you must have felt you had no option but to comply – you must have been acting without free will. If there has been duress or coercion to the extent that you had reason to be afraid for your own safety and security and felt threatened into marriage, that marriage will be voidable. Simply feeling pressure to marry a chosen spouse does not invalidate consent.

Canadian Spouses Have Equal Rights in a Separation or Divorce

When it comes to separation, and all forms of corollary relief (support, child custody and access, property division), different cultures have different customs and expectations regarding what each spouse is entitled to. However, courts will accord the same rights to all spouses. Under Canadian law, spouses are equally entitled to support, division of property, and child custody.

Looking to learn more about how cultural practices or the laws of other jurisdictions may affect your separation? Call (905) 581-7222 to speak with an Ontario separation lawyer about your case.

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