There are two ways for couples to have a legal union in Quebec: marriage (religious or civil ceremony) and civil union (only exists 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.
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
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. 16- and 17-year-olds must obtain the court’s permission to marry.
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 are allowed to get married 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 they have already been married in a religious ceremony. But these people can still in a civil ceremony once their first marriage is dissolved, for example, after a divorce.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.