Divorced outside of Canada and remarrying? Before applying for your Ontario marriage licence, ask for a foreign divorce opinion letter.
Why You Need a Foreign Divorce Opinion
When you get married outside Canada, your divorce is subject to foreign laws. If you apply to remarry in Ontario, you must show proof your foreign divorce is genuine. Legal opinion letters confirm you are legally divorced or verify a foreign marriage was annulled. Only a lawyer licensed by the Law Society of Ontario can issue a legal opinion letter.
Perhaps you left Canada to get married overseas or married a foreign spouse after a whirlwind romance. Marriage breakdown is traumatic and can be even more frustrating if your plans to remarry are held up by uncertainty about whether a foreign divorce is real.
Polygamy, or being married to multiple partners at once, is permissible in some countries, but not in Canada. That means you must provide a foreign divorce opinion letter when you apply for a marriage licence here. Unless you attach this all-important legal document, your marriage application could be turned down, forcing you to reapply at a later date.
What is a Foreign Divorce Letter?
Legal opinion letters are addressed to you and your future spouse and explain why your foreign divorce or annulment should be recognized in Ontario. Axess Law’s family lawyers go over Canadian and foreign laws with you and review where your divorce or annulment was granted, where you lived before you divorced and any other legal issues that could affect your Ontario marriage application.
They give their opinion on whether your divorce is legal to include with your marriage licence application. You submit the letter and application to the Ontario Registrar General, who reviews your documents and makes a decision. If you are approved, Service Ontario couriers you with an authorization to remarry letter.
Planning Ahead When You Remarry
Be sure to plan well ahead of your wedding ceremony to leave sufficient time to get legal documents signed and approved. Getting approved to remarry takes about four weeks. You then have 90 days from the date your marriage licence is issued to get married or reapply.
Are Foreign Divorces Legal in Ontario?
Most divorces from foreign countries, including the United States, are recognized in Canada provided:
- you or your spouse lived in a foreign country for at least a year before divorcing, or
- you have a “real and substantial connection” to the country where you divorced.
Being born in the country where you were married, returning after you divorce, owning property or visiting often can all be proof of a real and substantial connection to a foreign place. Countries without formal residency requirements may also be recognized under Canadian law. Axess Law has licensed family lawyers in Greater Toronto Area who can advise you.
Be Wary of Quicky Divorces
Be wary if a foreign spouse suggests a divorce that seems too convenient. Divorce requirements under Canadian law can be quite different than in foreign countries or places like Las Vegas where marriage and divorce are less formal. Quick divorces in foreign countries may not be recognized in Ontario and you could be committing polygamy if you remarry before you confirm a foreign divorce is legal in Canada. Before you apply for a divorce in a foreign country or if your spouse is not from Canada, check with Axess Law. Our family lawyers can advise you on how a foreign country’s divorce laws affect you.
Documents We Need
Virtual lawyer services make getting foreign divorce advice more convenient than ever. You can video conference with our licensed family lawyers anywhere in Ontario or make an in person appointment to request a foreign divorce opinion. We’ll need your:
- divorce decree, certificate of divorce or annulment for each divorce (originals or court-certified copies)
- English or French translation for documents in other languages, with sworn affidavits from a certified translator
- signed copy of your Ontario marriage licence application
- residency declaration showing you lived in a foreign country for at least a year before divorcing (if applicable)
- witnessed statement of sole responsibility, signed by you and your future spouse
- government photo ID, such as a driver’s licence, passport or permanent resident card
- and your contact information.
Our lawyers are also notary publics and can witness statements of sole responsibility or, if you are meeting in person, arrange for certified true copies of original documents. Your residency declaration can be brief. We just need to know where you lived in the year before getting a foreign divorce. Witnesses who can attest to your marriage or divorce can be helpful.
Can My Marriage Application be Rejected?
Ontario courts rarely refuse to recognize foreign divorces, but it can happen if:
- you failed to give notice you were applying for divorce
- the divorce order goes against public policy
- a foreign court couldn’t grant the divorce
- or your divorce is fraudulent.
Travel and Foreign Divorce
Some countries may not recognize Ontario marriages unless you also get a religious divorce or a get if you are Jewish. Since that could complicate travel plans or future employment prospects, ask us before travelling to Islamic countries or foreign places.
Foreign Spouse, Child Custody and Access Rights
Legal advice on divorce is especially important if you have biological or adopted children. Your parenting time and decision-making responsibilities (formerly called child custody and access rights in Ontario) or spousal and child support rights can depend on where your children grew up. A child brought to Ontario from a foreign country can be subject to Canadian law. We recommend getting legal advice from our qualified Ontario lawyers before applying to remarry.
Trusted Legal Advice for Less
Our flat rates fees for legal opinion letters are affordable and we respond quickly. You can get a foreign divorce letter for only $199.99 (plus taxes and couriers) and we can often accommodate urgent requests in a few days or less. Contact us today for an appointment with Greater Toronto Area lawyers near you. Our experienced family lawyers can answer any questions you may have about foreign divorce in Ontario.