| Feb 12, 2009

Back to HomeLegalese - February 12, 2009The Bridal Issue

Create A Ceremony that Works for YouBy Rev. Judie Diamond

Managing Wedding Costs: Is it Need or WantBy Connie Howes

How to Save Money & Not Look CheapBy Connie Howes

LegalesesNot Everyone Can Marry

Recession Rings

Not Everyone Can MarryBy Susan Irwin, Lawyer/Executive Director, Rural Legal Services With weddings being the focus of this week’s edition of the Frontenac News a brief look at the laws governing marriage (as opposed to marriage break-up) appears timely. While love is often said to be blind, there are a number of ends that can’t be left undone if you are planning to tie the knot.

First of all, no marriage can be solemnized in Ontario except under authority of a licence issued in accordance with Ontario’s Marriage Act, or the publication of banns “proclaimed openly in an audible voice during divine service”. You also must be at least 18 years old to be married and only then if “no lawful cause exists to hinder the solemnization” of the marriage.

For young lovers, if you are 16 or 17 years old you can only get married in Ontario if you have the written permission of your parents. If you are under 16 you cannot marry even if you manage to obtain parental permission.

You also, of course, cannot get married if you and your partner are too closely related by blood or adoption. Under the federal Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act, you cannot marry your parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, half-brother or half-sister.

If you are already married, you cannot marry someone else. Polygamous marriages are against the law in Canada. Consequently if you were married before, in order to get married again, you must provide proof that your earlier marriage was ended by divorce or was annulled, or if you are widowed, you must provide proof of your spouse’s death.

For those of you who are nervous about the big day and planning to tie one on the night before or even indulge in a tipple before the ceremony starts, a word of caution. If you are too drunk or too high to know what you are doing, your marriage even if it is solemnized, may be invalid. Under the Marriage Act, no licence should be issued or marriage solemnized where a party lacks mental capacity whether because of the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs, or for any other reason. A marriage entered into by force, or under duress, can also be invalid.

When planning a wedding, some may prefer a church ceremony while others opt for a civil proceeding. Either is valid under the Marriage Act, provided that the person solemnizing the marriage on behalf of a religious organization is registered under the Act or, in the case of a civil ceremony, is licenced to perform a marriage. But what if after your wedding, you and your spouse (and you can marry either a man or a woman whatever your own gender) having lived together subsequently discover that the person who married you had no legal authority to do so? Relax, your marriage may still be valid provided you acted in good faith and neither you or your partner was under any “legal disqualification” to marry such as being under age, mentally incapable or already married. There may however, be some paper work and other bureaucratic red tape to deal with in sorting things out.

In any wedding I have ever been to (including my own), a question is always raised of those present “whether any lawful impediment to the marriage is known?” Although your imagination could work overtime, the impediments contemplated are those covered by the Marriage Act. In my case, no-one stepped forward to object to my marriage and that was 30 years ago. With patience, kindness, a good sense of humour and of course, love, I’ll be married to my husband for at least another 30 years.

Best wishes to all of you who are thinking about marriage.

Legalese is a column of general information and opinion on legal topics by the lawyers of Rural Legal Services, Box 359, Sharbot Lake, ON, K0H2P0, 613-279-3252, or 1-888-777-8916. This column is not intended to provide legal advice. You should contact a lawyer to determine your legal rights and obligations.

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