Marriage in Quebec

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There are two ways for couples to have a legal union in Quebec:

  1. marriage (religious or civil ceremony)
  2. civil union (exists only in Quebec)

This article explains only the essential requirements for being able to marry. Note that getting married brings with it important legal consequences both during and at the end of the marriage.

Important! Marriage is an official event. Just living together, even for several years, does not mean a couple is married. If they don’t make their union official, they are considered common-law partners.

 

Requirements for Marriage

Two People

In Canada, marriage can only take place between two people. As of July 20, 2005, same-sex partners can get married in Canada.

At Least 16 Years Old

The minimum age for getting married in Quebec is 16. But 16 and 17-year-olds must get permission from a court.

Not Married to Someone Else

The future spouses can't already be married to anyone else. In other words, they must be single, divorced or widowed. They can also marry someone new if their previous marriage was annulled.

A couple in a civil union together who want to marry each other do not have to dissolve their civil union first. Marriage automatically puts an end to their civil union.

Did you know?

Some religions don't allow people to remarry if the have already been married in a religious ceremony. But these people can still marry again in a civil ceremony once their first marriage is dissolved, for example, after a divorce.

Consent

The future spouses must be able to fully agree to the marriage or, in legal terms, give their free and informed consent. For example, people who lack understanding due to an illness, or have been declared incapable, can't get married because they aren't able to fully understand all that marriage involves. 

First, consent must be given freely: a person can't be forced into marriage, whether by the future spouse or anyone else, including a parent.

Second, consent must be informed. This means it is wrong to mislead someone into making an error. Here are examples of marriages that can be annulled (undone) because of a problem with consent that involves error:

  • identity of the person
     
    • A bride believes she is marrying a widower, but her future spouse is actually divorced.
    • A husband discovers after the marriage that his wife is violent and has a long criminal record.
  • qualities of the spouse that were essential to the other spouse's consent (following a lie, deception or bad intentions)
     
    • A woman believes she is marrying a rich heir and medical student, but he made up the whole story and is living off of her.
    • A man leads a woman into believing that getting married in Canada is the only solution to his problems because his life is in danger. He says he wants to start a family with her, but he really only wants a new life in Canada.
  • the real reasons for the marriage
     
    • A millionaire bachelor marries a woman who never planned to live with him or consummate the marriage but manages to get money out of him.
    • A man gets married in Canada only because he wants to immigrate to this country and has no intention of living with his wife.

       

Annulling a marriage is a serious matter. There must be a very good reason for a judge to agree to annul a marriage.

Important! Annulment of a marriage by a religious official doesn't automatically cancel the marriage under Quebec law. The annulment must be done by a court to be valid.

 

Prohibited Marriages

Bigamy or Polygamy

In Canada, a person can have only one spouse. The law doesn't allow bigamy (being married to two people) or polygamy (being married to several people). If a person is legally married to someone else, he can't marry another person.

Example 1

Robert married Rosa over 12 years ago. They separated but were never divorced, so they are still considered married. This means Robert can't marry Julie, even though they've been living together for the past four years. To marry Julie, Robert must divorce Rosa If he gets married knowing that he's not officially divorced, he could be committing the crime of bigamy.

Example 2

Mark's religion allows him to have several wives. However, Canadian judges have confirmed that the laws of Canada don't allow a man to officially have more than one wife or to live like husband and wife with more than one person, no matter what his religion allows.

Bigamy and polygamy are crimes in Canada. A person who is found guilty of these crimes can be jailed for a maximum of five years.

Relatives

Marriage is not allowed between the following relatives:

  • brother and sister
  • half-brother and half-sister
  • parent and child
  • grandparent and grandchild

Marriage is allowed between these relatives:

  • former brother-in-law and sister-in-law
  • cousins
  • aunt/uncle and niece/nephew

The relatives can be related by blood, adoption or marriage (spouse of a member of the biological or adoptive family).

 

End of the Marriage

A marriage ends with the death of a spouse or by divorce. To get a divorce, the marriage must have failed for one of the reasons mentioned in the law. The spouses need a divorce judgment to officially end their marriage.

Also, the court can annul a marriage in some cases where the spouses didn't meet the formalities required for marriage.

 

Getting Remarried

A person can remarry in a civil ceremony if the earlier marriage was dissolved by divorce, annulment or the death of a spouse. Before remarrying in a religious ceremony, couples should contact the appropriate religious official to determine whether remarriage is allowed.

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.