Marriage Legalities: Equal Love & Respect is a given, but what else?


Your marriage requires some discussion of legal and business matters. Even though it might be uncomfortable to talk about and is not the most romantic of conversations, it is a good way to start your marriage. Here is some information you may like to know:

Marrying in Ontario

To marry in Ontario you must be 18 years of age. It is possible to get married at the age of 16 or 17 with written consent of a legal guardian. If you need the consent of someone who is not available or refuses to consent, then an application may be made to a judge to dispense with content.

How to Get Married

1. Marriage License

- Must be obtained from the issuer of marriage licenses at your local municipal clerk’s office.

- At least one party of the proposed marriage must apply in person, but both individuals must sign the application.

- You will be asked for proof of age (for both individuals, even if only one of them is there at the time).

- Valid in all of Ontario and requires a fee.

2. Officiator

- A marriage ceremony in Ontario may be performed by:
(i) A minister or member of the clergy who is registered under the Marriage Act.
(ii) A judge, justice of peace or municipal clerk.

3. Civil Ceremony

- Can only be conducted under the authority of a marriage license.

- Applicants must have two witnesses present.

- There is an additional fee for a civil ceremony.

4. Changing Your Name

- You can take your partners name, keep yours or combine the two.

- You are not legally required to take your partner’s name.

- Consider personal situations to figure out what works for you.  

- Considerations: your professional status; spelling; pronunciation; retain family name; tradition; children; social name, etc.


1.     Keep your maiden name

2.     Use your maiden name professionally

3.     Hyphenate or add on your partners name

4.     Partner’s surname

5.     (Although rare) Both partners take your surnames

Letting people know:

Here’s a basic list of items that may have to be updated with your new name …

1.     Social insurance number

2.     Driver’s licenses

3.     Car ownership

4.     Voter registration

5.     Next time you renew your passport

6.     Employer

7.     School

8.     Financial institutions

9.     Wills

10. Insurance (home, car, etc.)

11. Subscription and/or club memberships

12. Canada post

13. Health card


Prenuptial Agreements

NOTE: It is a good idea to start off a marriage with a free and open discussion about marital roles, duties  and money. However, it may be a sensitive subject, especially if one partner is not bringing much to the union in the way of assets. When dealing with a sensitive manner like this, do not be ashamed to hire an attorney. It is a much better alternative than starting off a life together by “hiding your assets.” Imagine the paranoia and stress! A union (marriage) that is based on a fear of losing assets and not one another is a union that is not prepared to unite. This does not mean you need to get a prenup, but the conversation is a must for all couples that are engaged or are in serious relationships that seem to be moving towards marriage.


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What is a Prenup?

-       A contract which specifies the couple’s individual property rights throughout the marriage and if their marriage should end.

-       Ontario has laws that give a widow or widower a minimum interest in the other’s property when his or her spouse dies, regardless of what the will says. 

-       When a couple enters into a prenuptial agreement, they do so before either of them has a legal claim to the other’s property by virtue of marriage. Therefore, they are not subject to Ontario laws if the marriage ends, weather by death or divorce.

-       A Prenup agreement takes effect once the couple marries.

-       If both parties agree, it may be provoked or altered at any time.

Do you need a Prenup?

Think of the following questions:

1.     If you have children from a previous marriage and are entering a new marriage with assets that you wish to keep for them.

2.     If your spouse has substantial assets.

3.     If you inherited property or expect to do so.

Be Advised …

If you are considering a prenup, please note that this does not take away your duty as “husband & wife”, “wife & wife” or “husband & husband.” Contrary to popular and cultural belief, and mainly because of the taboo of such a subject, many do not feel comfortable signing a prenup because they believe their partner will avoid martial duties. The law does not condone this, and great consequences are to follow if this does happen. You and you partner must provide a list that contains all “properties” that you are bringing into the marriage (including any debt!). Without this list, a prenup is not valid.

You and your partner are required to act in good faith when signing such documentation. A prenup can be declared invalid if any ignorance or trickery can be declared. Also, if one of the parties is at a disadvantage because of youth, inexperience, or other circumstances, a court may not enforce the agreement or it may need to be altered. To save on cost, review the document together with a lawyer present. Keep in mind that this is between you and your partner. It does not have to be publicly known. My personal suggestion is to keep such important matters private. This will reduce stress and build great trust between partners. 


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Markham, Ontario

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