The Pitfalls of Foreign Marriage and Divorce: Part 1

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The Pitfalls of Foreign Marriage and Divorce: Part 1

Aimee Tannahill 10 August 2015

The issues of foreign marriage and foreign divorce are arising more and more frequently due to globalisation and the increasing ease of travel between international borders.

Before considering a foreign marriage, it is important to investigate whether the marriage will be recognized in your home jurisdiction.

If you are a resident of Alberta and are thinking about getting married abroad, it is crucial to ensure that the formalities of the jurisdiction where the marriage is being performed are properly followed. Such formalities include whether the person performing the ceremony is properly licensed, the correct number of witnesses are present, and whether the marriage is properly registered.

Even if your foreign marriage followed all of the formal requirements of the foreign jurisdiction, there is still a possibility that the marriage will not be recognized in Alberta if Alberta does not recognize the type of marriage. For example, if the spouses are too closely related to one another according to Alberta law, Alberta will not recognize the marriage, even if the jurisdiction that performed the marriage recognizes the marriage as valid.

Many Alberta residents who have planned a “destination wedding” choose to do a simple legal wedding ceremony in Alberta before or after their trip to avoid concerns about the validity of a foreign wedding ceremony, especially when there is a language barrier.

Since same-sex marriages were legalized in Canada in 2005, many couples have travelled to Canada to get married from jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is illegal. Even though these couples were legally married in Canada, their marriages were not recognized in their home jurisdiction. Among other issues, these couples could not get divorced in their home jurisdiction. They could not get divorce in Canada either because they were not residents of Canada. They were stuck in their marriage with no ability to get divorced. The Government of Canada has stepped in to fill this “legislative gap” and, as of June 18, 2013, non-resident same-sex couples who were married in Canada can now get divorced in Canada.

In my next blog post, I will discuss the pitfalls of foreign divorce.

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