Foreign Divorce and Remarrying in Ontario

Family lawyers can do more than just assisting in divorce or separation - we can also assist parties in remarrying. Today, we'll be discussing separation and remarriage.

Hello, my name is Shilpa Mehta and I am a lawyer with the Feldstein Family Law Group.

I know when many people think of family lawyers, they automatically assume that the scope of work is limited to assisting separating couples come to a resolution upon the dissolution of their relationship. However, family lawyers can do more than just assist in divorce or separation; we can also assist parties in remarrying.

In my practice, I am seeing a greater number of people who have obtained a divorce from a foreign jurisdiction, somewhere outside of Canada, but are seeking to re-marry in Ontario and therefore, require a marriage license.

To be eligible to marry in Ontario, the couple must obtain a marriage license, which remains valid for three months from the date of issue. While this may sound straight forward, matters become slightly more complicated if one of the parties has previously been divorced somewhere outside of Canada. In such a situation, before a marriage license can be obtained, an authorization from the Ontario government must be presented before the marriage license is issued. In order to obtain the authorization, the following documentation must be submitted to the Office of the Registrar General-Marriage Office:

  1. A completed marriage license application executed by both you and your future spouse;
  2. The original divorce or a copy of the divorce certified by the administrative officer of the court in the granting jurisdiction, or sealed or otherwise properly authenticated by the court. If the divorce decree is written in a language other than English or French, a certified translation is also required;
  3. Statement of Sole Responsibility, which states that the validity of a foreign divorce remains the responsibility of the license applicant, and that the Ontario government assumes no responsibility if the foreign divorce turns out to be invalid; and
  4. A copy of a legal opinion of an Ontario solicitor, such as me, addressed to both parties who intend to marry stating that the foreign divorce would be recognized as valid in the Province of Ontario and providing the supporting legal reasoning for this position.

While much of this process requires that the parties complete the proper paperwork and provide the Ministry with the requisite documentation from their previous divorce, the foreign divorce opinion letter is where my services are required. Essentially, in providing an opinion letter regarding the foreign divorce, I will have to assess the circumstances of the particular client and determine whether he or she falls into one of the categories under which their divorce would be considered valid, as per Canadian legislation and case law.

A divorce from another country is likely valid in Canada if either:

  1. when you obtained your divorce, you had a “real and substantial” connection to the place where you obtained the divorce; or
  2. when you obtained your divorce, either you or your spouse had been “ordinarily resident” in the place that granted the divorce for a year beforehand, meaning that you lived in a Canadian province for 12 consecutive months.

If you would like to learn more about this or any other family law topics, visit our website. If you need legal advice about your own situation, please call us at (905) 581-7222 to schedule an initial consultation. Thanks for watching.

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