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What to Do When Your Spouse is a Bigamist

When Ludmila accepted Paul’s marriage proposal after only five months of dating, Paul thought he had it made. A bit chubby and in his 50s, Paul was over the moon. The glamorous brunette with the razor sharp violet nails was everything a middle-aged man could want.

Online Dating Love Connection  

Paul was reluctant to use dating sites like Plenty of Fish or Match.com, but his Friday night brew pub buddies convinced him over a Canuck pale ale. His common-law spouse had abandoned him in a seven-year itch. After so many years of being alone, Paul found Ludmila’s colour photo holding her three-month-old orange tabby Miss Lizzy enchanting. The five-foot-eight Belarus bombshell was studying to be a computer technician at Seneca College and lived with an uncle in Newnham. She was 32, ushered at Cineplex on weekends and laughed at all his worst jokes.

No Time for Second Thoughts

Ludmila had just started her two-year certificate when she signed on with the dating site. Paul was legally separated for all intents, financially secure and fun to be with. A quick trip online to the City of Toronto website for a marriage license application and she, Paul (and Miss Lizzy) were an item. Paul took the dated, signed application, required documents and $140 fee to the Toronto city clerk’s office the next day. He got a licence immediately.

Marrying a Foreigner in Ontario

Although Ludmila was a foreigner, she had a study permit and could marry a Canadian citizen. Paul discovered foreigners can provide two pieces of government-issued ID from any country. Her ID was in English, so a certified, written translation was not required. As long as her legal name and date of birth were included, she had a choice of providing her:

  • birth certificate
  • passport
  • driver’s licence
  • Ontario photo ID card
  • record of immigration landing
  • confirmation of permanent residency
  • permanent residency card
  • identity or Nexus card.

As Ontario has no residency, citizenship or medical requirements to marry, Ludmila could be here permanently or temporarily and still marry Paul. Her new spouse didn’t think to ask for a divorce certificate from the Belarus government. Bigamy was the last thing on his mind.

Planning a Civil Ceremony Instead of Wedding

Paul did think it was a bit odd that Ludmila demurred when he suggested a church wedding. The Belarusian Orthodox Church had a wedding chapel in Toronto. He had read online that 94% of Belarusians were religious. But he happily consented when she booked the wedding chamber at Scarborough Civic Centre for a civil ceremony. Less fuss and expense, she explained.

Non-Traditional Wedding Tip Offs

Her uncle Jarek and neighbour Stannes witnessed the 20-minute ceremony. Paul was a bit of a traditionalist, but relented when his much younger fiancé insisted on The Princess Bride for her wedding processional. Ludmila was stunning in her navy lace pantsuit. 

Last to Know Your New Spouse is a Bigamist

Paul hadn’t been married long when the ruse was up. A careless text message here and there to “Dragan” and furtive long distance phone calls to Minsk caused him to hire a private investigator. Sadly, Stannes was a wealth of information. Paul’s marriage was void. All that remained was to get a legal annulment to remove it from the public record.

Multiple Marriages More Common Than You Think

Bigamy  is more common in Canada than many think. Some religious sects promote polygamous marriages and families from cultures where multiple spouses are permitted often export their practice here. It may be illegal, but only if they get caught. 

An Unusual Case of Polygamy

In an even more unexpected twist, a Hamilton lawyer was charged in 2018 with forging court documents to issue a false divorce certificate and marry his law clerk. Although not a registered marriage officiant, the enterprising legal practitioner allegedly signed their marriage certificate. His legal wife denied ever being served with divorce papers.

Bigamy is a Criminal Code Offence

You don’t have to be a lawyer to know that polygamous relationships, including bigamy, are a criminal offence in Canada. Ludmila had committed polyandry by remarrying without being divorced and having more than one husband. The brash brunette could be charged, tried and if convicted, serve up to five years in a Canadian prison. 

Co-conspirators Can be Liable for Polygamy

Had Paul known she was married when they walked down the aisle, he could also have been charged with bigamy. Any party to “a rite, ceremony, contract or consent” sanctioning polygamy is also criminally liable. That made Jarek and Stannes suspects. As for Paul, he was out the  wedding expenses and his dignity. His friends could buy him a round, but love couldn’t always buy happiness.

Convenient Day or Evening In Person or Virtual Appointments

Axess Law’s Ontario family lawyers offer virtual video call  legal services 7 days a week, at your convenience. Call ahead to arrange a day or evening appointment. Dial toll-free to 877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto at 647-479-0118 or use our online booking form. In person appointments with licensed lawyers are available at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices.
Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s family law services.


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