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It’s not uncommon for residents of Canada to travel for marriage and then return home. These destination weddings, however, still require the marriage to be properly registered in the country the marriage took place in for the marriage to be considered valid back home. When COVID-19 first became a global issue, many people were caught off guard while traveling aboard and had to rush home. This was what happened to a couple involved in a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Wedding takes place in India
The parties came to the court to seek a declaration that their marriage, which took place in India on March 8, 2020, is valid. The couple was hoping to obtain a marriage certificate.
The couple had a religious ceremony in New Dheli right before much of the world was largely shut down due to COVID-19. With the news of international borders closing, the couple decided to return to the countries they lived in prior to the wedding. This meant the wife returned to Canada and the husband went back to the UK. The issue with this is that the couple did not get their marriage registered in India.
Requirements for a valid marriage
The court turned to Section 31 of the Marriage Act in outlining what is required for a marriage to be solemnized in good faith. A four-part test was established in a previous decision which speaks to the requirements of the Act. The test states the following requirements:
1) The marriage must have been solemnized in good faith;
2) The marriage must have been intended to be in compliance with the Marriage Act;
3) Neither party was under a legal disqualification to contract marriage; and
4) The parties must have lived together and cohabited as a married couple after solemnization.
Did the parties satisfy the test?
The parties submitted some evidence to the court, including a copy of their wedding invitation and 17 photos from the ceremony. They also provided the court with copies of their passports to confirm their identities. However, the court did not find this to be enough evidence, stating while it has no doubts that the couple did indeed participate in a religious wedding ceremony, there is no evidence explaining why the marriage was not properly registered there, even if they aren’t physically present.
The court referenced case law which states that a marriage performed outside of Canada must be shown to comply with local laws in order to be considered valid here. Again, there was simply no evidence of that here, with the court writing,
“Here, I have been provided with no evidence as to whether the parties complied with the formal requirements of the laws in India for their marriage to be properly registered there. I have no evidence that would confirm whether the parties intended to comply with the local Indian laws; I have no evidence that would assist in confirming whether the parties’ marriage is valid in India (and it may very well be); I also have not been provided with any evidence of the parties’ intention, if any, to comply with Ontario’s Marriage Act.”
The court did state that while it has the authority to validate a marriage performed in good faith by two people who thought they were in accordance with the law, it should not be considered an alternative to taking the necessary steps to have the marriage formally registered. The court thought the parties in this case just didn’t bother registering the marriage in India. As a result, the marriage was not determined to be valid.
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