Author Malcolm C Kron Isbn 9780470736821 File size 3 29MB Year 2010 Pages 432 Language English File format PDF Category Family and Friendship A CANADIAN BESTSELLER FULLY REVISED AND UPDATED For more than 30 years Canadian Family Law has helped us to understand the legal issues surrounding marriage separation and divorce child custody and support Now in its tenth edition Canadian Family Law provides information on recent developments in family law such as same sex marriage alternative
Author : Malcolm C. Kron
ISBN : 9780470736821
Year : 2010
File Size : 3.29MB
Category : Family and Friendship
Family Law Act, Child Support Guidelines,
Divorce Act, Arbitration Act, and
Arbitration Act Regulations
An indispensable, clearly written guide to Canadian law on
• marriage • separation • divorce • spousal and child support • child custody
and access • property rights • estate rights • domestic contracts
• enforcement • same-sex relationships • alternate dispute resolution
MALCOLM C. KRONBY
Copyright © 2010 by Malcolm C. Kronby
All rights reserved. No part of this work covered by the copyright herein may be
reproduced or used in any form or by any means—graphic, electronic or mechanical
without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any request for photocopying,
recording, taping or information storage and retrieval systems of any part of this book
shall be directed in writing to The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access
Copyright). For an Access Copyright license, visit www.accesscopyright.ca or call toll
Care has been taken to trace ownership of copyright material contained in this book.
The publisher will gladly receive any information that will enable them to rectify any
reference or credit line in subsequent editions.
This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in re
gard to the subject matter covered. It is sold on the understanding that the Publisher is
not engaged in rendering professional services. If professional advice or other expert
assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Kronby, Malcolm C., 1934
Canadian family law / Malcolm C. Kronby.—10th ed.
1. Domestic relations—Canada—Popular works. I. Title.
Cover design: Joanna Vieira
Interior text design: A. So
Typesetter: Pat Loi
John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd.
6045 Freemont Blvd.
Printed in Canada
1 2 3 4 5 PC 14 13 12 11 10
To M. again and always
Table of Contents
Preface to the 10th Edition
Introduction to the 10 Edition
1. The Legal Remedies 3
2. Marriage 6
Age of Consent 6
Mental Capacity to Marry 7
Consent of the Parties 7
Prior Marriages 8
An Exception to the Rule 9
Rights and Obligations of Marriage 9
Common-Law Marriage 10
The Same-Sex Marriage Litigation 13
The Courts’ Decisions 14
The Federal Government Reference 16
3. Separation 19
Separation Agreements 19
Financial Provisions 23
Support and Custody of Children 23
Other Possible Provisions 24
Alteration of the Terms 25
Why Is a Separation Agreement a Good Idea? 25
Duration of the Terms 26
4. Spousal Support 27
Spousal Support and Variation under Provincial Statutes 30
Same-Sex Spouses: The Decisions in M. v. H. 37
Spousal Support and Variation under the Divorce Act 40
Income Tax Considerations 61
Canada Pension Plan Beneﬁts 62
Spousal Support from an Estate 63
The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines 63
iv | Canadian Family Law
5. Custody and Access 70
How to Apply for Custody 75
1. Children’s Law Reform Act (Ontario) 75
2. Divorce Application 75
3. General Jurisdiction 76
The Guiding Principle in Custody Cases 76
Kidnapping Is No Solution 77
Who Speaks for the Children? 78
Review of Custody Orders 79
Guiding Sub-Principles 80
Custody by Agreement 81
Joint Custody 81
Criminal Charges (Domestic Violence) and Custody
Effect of Adultery 85
Visiting Rights (Access) 86
Death of a Custodial Parent 92
Mobility Rights: Relocation of Children 92
6. Child Support 103
The Child Support Guidelines 107
If You Have A Child Support Agreement Or Court Order Made Prior to
May 1, 1997 108
The Amount of Child Support under the Guidelines 109
Split Custody 114
Shared Custody 114
Undue Hardship 116
Disclosure Requirements on Application 117
Annual Disclosure Requirements 118
Form of Payments and Security 119
Can You Make an Agreement for Child Support That Is Not in Accordance
with the Guidelines? 119
Variation of Child Support 120
The Problem of Retroactive Child Support 121
7. Property Rights 127
Equalization of Net Family Property (Part I, Family Law Act, Ontario)
The Basic Idea 128
Equalizing Payment 134
Statement of NFP: Concepts of Value 138
Estate Rights 141
Trust Interests 144
Table of Contents | v
8. Divorce 146
Corollary Relief 149
Grounds for Divorce 150
The Hearing and Judgment 157
Recognition of Divorce Judgments
9. Annulment 161
Grounds for Annulment 162
10. Domestic Contracts 165
11. Enforcement 171
Enforcement of Separation Agreements 172
Enforcement of Custody and Access 173
Enforcement under the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears
Enforcement Act 174
Enforcement under the Family Law Act 176
Enforcement under the Divorce Act 178
12. Alternate Dispute Resolution 180
Enforceability of Arbitration Agreements 187
Enforceability of Arbitration Awards 188
Challenges and Appeals of Arbitration Awards or Agreements 189
Appeals Under Section 45 of the Arbitration Act 189
Setting Aside an Award: Section 46 of the Arbitration Act 191
Appendix A: What Your Lawyer Will Probably Want to Know
Personal Data 193
Financial Data 194
Appendix B: Comparative Analysis of Family Property Legislation
Divorce Act R.S., 1985, c. 3 (2nd Supp.) 236
Federal Child Support Guidelines 278
Family Law Act 306
Arbitration Act, 1991 S.O. 1991, Chapter 17 378
Arbitration Act, 1991, ONTARIO REGULATION 134/07,
FAMILY ARBITRATION 415
Canadian Family Law 10th Edition URLs 424
Preface to the 10th Edition
“What’s a legal separation?”
“Doesn’t the mother always get custody of the children?”
“Will I lose my property rights (whatever they are) if I break up the marriage?”
In my practice, I’ve been asked these questions and others like them
hundreds of times.
Most laymen who attempt to achieve some understanding of family
law are burdened by myth and confused by misconception. They hear third
hand stories of the complexity and cost of divorce proceedings. They are
intimidated by the prospect of having to appear in court and put off by
technical legal language. That’s why this book was written—to explain the
rights, obligations, and remedies of family law.
WHAT IS FAMILY LAW?
Family law is the entire range of statutes, regulations and precedents that
govern the relations between spouses and among parents and children. This
includes (but is not limited to) the body of law on marriage, divorce, annul
ment, on custody of children, separation, spousal support, child support,
and property rights within the family. This vast and complex ﬁeld of law
touches the lives of all of us.
The law relating to formation and solemnization of marriage is con
tained in provincial statutes, which are roughly the same all across the
country. The Divorce Act is a federal statute, so that there is, thankfully, only
one divorce law for the whole of Canada. However, the regulations govern
ing the procedure of granting a divorce vary somewhat from province to
The law concerning the custody of children is partly contained in pro
vincial statutes and regulations, which are pretty similar from Newfoundland
to British Columbia. The Divorce Act also has sections dealing with custody
of children, but these only apply in connection with divorce proceedings. As
we’ll see, the Divorce Act states that orders for “corollary relief”—the things
Table of Contents | vii
that may go along with a divorce, such as custody, support payments and
visiting rights—should be nationwide in scope and effect, but there is also
a large body of provincial law in these areas that is not linked to divorce.
Property rights are under provincial law.
When the Divorce Act of 1968 came into force, it created grounds for di
vorce that had never previously existed in Canada. For practical purposes,
prior to June 1968, the only ground for divorce was adultery. If you lived in
Quebec or Newfoundland, there was no way to get a divorce under provin
cial procedures; a petition had to be presented to the federal Senate to pass
a private Bill dissolving the marriage. These restricted grounds created many
cases of hardship. For example, a husband and wife might have been sepa
rated for ten years, in which time the husband might be living with another
woman by whom he had children, but there couldn’t be a divorce unless his
estranged wife saw ﬁt to sue him on the grounds of his obvious adultery.
Frequently she wouldn’t do it, simply out of grief or spite. In other cases, a
wife might be the victim of sadistic cruelty, but she couldn’t get a divorce
unless her husband committed adultery. Even in marriages destroyed by in
curable insanity of one of the parties, the other had no hope of divorce in
the absence of adultery.
The Divorce Act of 1968 created grounds of cruelty and marriage break
down (meaning, at a minimum, separation for a period not less than three
years) along with adultery. Other grounds were established as well, but
these rarely arose in actual practice; the grounds of adultery, cruelty and
separation probably covered 99 percent of the cases that came to court.
The current Divorce Act, in force as of June 1, 1986, establishes only one
ground for divorce: marriage breakdown, which arises as a result of adul
tery, cruelty, or separation for a period of one year. The procedure has also
been considerably simpliﬁed. But divorce is still a complex business (which
is not to say it should be that way), despite the claims of those who sell
do-it-yourself divorce kits or offer so-called divorce-aid services with sup
posedly guaranteed results.
I’ve tried to make the information in this book as accurate as my know
ledge and the state of the law will permit. But laws change. Statutes are
amended, appeal courts overturn long-standing precedents, and, especially,
circumstances alter results. Often a ﬁne factual distinction between two cas
es produces two markedly different judgments.
There are, of course, limitations to the scope and content of this book.
Some subject areas are not treated at all: paternity suits, child welfare legis
lation, and family aspects of criminal law are three such areas. Adoption is
only touched on.
viii | Canadian Family Law
Preface to the 10th Edition | viii
Not a week goes by without an interesting new decision being reported.
That’s one reason why family law is so interesting and challenging.
A second reason is the emotional load carried by so many cases. Two
businessmen can sue each other, but have lunch together during a break in
the trial. On the other hand, a parent ﬁghting for custody of a child may feel
(wrongly) that the only way to succeed is to destroy the other parent.
There’s a third reason why this ﬁeld of law is fascinating. Many cases
in family law are what I would call “hinge points” in the lives of the par
ties. The course of a lifetime can be determined by the judgment in a divorce
case; it’s even more obviously so in a child-custody case.
A word of caution: If you have a family law problem, go to a lawyer.
This book is no substitute for the working relationship between lawyer and
client, nor can it possibly give you legal advice. In presenting a general sur
vey of family law in Canada, it’s quite impossible to deal with every aspect,
or to deal with the narrow factual distinctions that may distinguish one judg
ment from another. At the end of the text you will ﬁnd Appendix A:“What
Your Lawyer Will Probably Want to Know,” which is intended to save you
and your lawyer time and effort in the ﬁrst interview.
This book has been written from the point of view of a lawyer practic
ing in Ontario. The principles in the text derive from cases from all across
Canada, but I don’t pretend to be intimately familiar with the statutes of
each province. Although the broad principles of family law are similar in ev
ery province and territory, differences are often hidden in the interstices of
provincial statute law.
Introduction to the 10th Edition
Since the publication of the 9th edition of Canadian Family Law in 2006, statutory amendments and many court decisions necessitate this extensive revision.
The legal battle over same-sex rights and marriage is ﬁnished. The Child
Support Guidelines have been clariﬁed, and revised support ﬁgures came
into force in May 2006. The binding effect of separation agreements and
marriage contracts has been the subject of a number of appellate decisions.
The difﬁcult question of determining child support in shared custody has
been addressed by the Supreme Court of Canada. The principles for awarding
retroactive child support were the subject of an appeal in a group of Alberta
decisions in the Supreme Court of Canada. A decision of the Ontario Court
of Appeal, in which the Supreme Court of Canada refused leave to appeal,
and which has been followed in other provinces, deals with the limited
circumstances in which spousal support can be varied after an agreement
between the parties. In Ontario, an appeal decision says, in effect, that no
court order that either grants or refuses spousal support is immune from
review; the British Columbia Court of Appeal rules the opposite. Another
decision in the Ontario Court of Appeal permits a variation of an equal
ization payment to reﬂect market conditions after separation. The growth
and demand for mediation and arbitration (alternate dispute resolution) and
possible faith-based arbitrations resulted in the controversial Boyd Report in
Ontario. Although many recommendations in the Boyd Report were rejected,
the Family Law Act and Arbitration Act have been amended to make signif
icant changes in aspects of family arbitration.
In January 2005, the Department of Justice released draft Spousal
Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) intended to bring national consistency
to spousal support awards. The SSAG, now ﬁnalized, are not law, and,
it appears never will be; they are advisory only, unlike the Federal Child
Support Guidelines, which are law. However, the SSAG have been discussed,
considered and applied in many decisions, and now are taking hold as an
unlegislated aspect of the law.
2 | Canadian Family Law
All of these (and more) will be discussed in the text.
Again, I have included some material on same-sex rights and obliga
tions and on the same-sex marriage litigation that derives from memoranda
written by my colleagues Martha A. McCarthy and Joanna Radbord, and is
used with their permission and my gratitude. Even if there is now little legal
controversy, the historical and constitutional context is worth preserving.
Following the decision where the Supreme Court of Canada decided that
exclusion of same-sex partners from spousal support rights under the Ontario
Family Law Act is unconstitutional, eight Ontario statutes were amended to
reﬂect and implement the decision. Soon afterward, similar amendments
(more or less) were passed in other provinces and territories, but the terms
differ signiﬁcantly from one to another. Within the scope of this text, it
reﬂects these changes and those that followed the ratiﬁcation of same-sex
marriage by the Supreme Court of Canada and Parliament.
There is still no signiﬁcant body of law on torts (civil wrongs) in
connection with family law or domestic disputes. These claims might arise,
for example, from spousal abuse, assault, or transmission of sexual disease.
As in previous editions, there are some topics that this book does not cover.
Derivative claims for personal injury or death, although included in Part V
of the Family Law Act (Ontario), are properly left to other texts. Paternity
suits are usually resolved by blood testing, now so accurate through DNA
matching as to establish virtual certainty. Child welfare proceedings, such
as protection and child wardship, are comprehensively treated elsewhere.
Adoption is only touched on. Criminal matters are left to specialized texts
and annotations to the Criminal Code.
The law evolves, of course. In an imperfect metaphor, one may compare
an important decision to oil spilled on water. The slick spreads, until it may
be only a molecule in thickness. It reﬂects and refracts light in different
ways. Then a detergent—say, a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada
or a statutory amendment—cleans it up or mixes it up—and we start again.
There is a vast body of data—statutes, decisions and regulations, and
as in all previous editions, my greatest problem is deciding what to put
in and what to leave out. One standard reference text for Ontario lawyers
cites more than three thousand decisions. This book, having more modest
ambitions, must be as accurate, comprehensive, and lucid as possible, but
not overwhelming in bulk and scope. I am responsible for the inclusions and
omissions, and for the accuracy of the text.
The Legal Remedies
A range of alternative or cumulative remedies is available in matrimonial
disputes. Roughly in order of severity or ﬁnality, they are:
(a) A separation agreement, which is a voluntary contract between the
parties. It is a private matter, not needing court sanction or ap
proval. A marriage contract, entered into before or during marriage,
may also contain terms effective on the separation of the spouses.
(b) An application by either spouse for support in a “family court.” This
includes applications to a court set up under provincial law, not in
connection with divorce proceedings. The actual name of the court
varies from province to province, as do the rights of the parties.
Typically, the court has the power to make orders for custody, ac
cess and support. In Ontario, the Ontario Court of Justice has these
powers under the Family Law Act, referred to below.
(c) An application by either parent (or sometimes by another “interested
party,” perhaps a grandparent or uncle) for custody of children, with
or without child support, and subject to awarding or refusing visiting
rights (access) to the other parent. The court always has the power
to look at arrangements for the children, even if there is a separation
agreement or a previous court order. In that sense, a custody order
is never ﬁnal but is always open to review, because the court never
loses its power to make an order in the best interests of a child. An
application for custody can be made independently of any other le
gal remedy or can be combined with a claim for divorce or support.
Usually, the location of the habitual residence of the child deter
mines which court has exclusive jurisdiction to deal with custody,
but an exception may be made in favour of another court when, in
extreme circumstances, the court must act to protect the child.
4 | Canadian Family Law
(d) An application for spousal support, with or without a claim for cus
tody and child support. In Ontario, all jurisdiction to award support
not linked to a divorce application for either husband or wife is gov
erned by the Family Law Act, in force as of March 1, 1986. The right
to support is independent of conduct, and is determined principally
by the need of the applicant, the applicant’s ability to provide selfsupport, and the respondent’s capacity to pay, although there are
many other factors that the court can consider in accordance with
section 33(9) of the Family Law Act. There are roughly similar sup
port provisions in statutes of every province.
The Superior Court of Justice, the Uniﬁed Family Court and
the Ontario Court of Justice all have power to award support and
custody under the Family Law Act and the Children’s Law Reform
Act. The signiﬁcant difference in jurisdiction is between the Ontario
Court and the others. While all of these courts have a broad power
to make orders for periodic payments or lump sums of support or
combinations of these, the Ontario Court has no jurisdiction over
divorce or property matters.
(e) A claim in respect of “property rights,” for example, to equalize the
net worth accumulated during the marriage, force a sale of a home,
divide its contents, or recover property in the hands of the other
spouse. This is provincial rather than federal law. In Ontario, it is all
under the Family Law Act, and is covered in Chapter 7. The jurisdic
tion to deal with matrimonial property is in the Superior Court of
Justice or the Uniﬁed Family Court, and not in the Ontario Court.
There are some such property statutes in every province of Canada.
It is beyond the scope of this book to analyze and comment fully on
the similarities and differences, but the wording of each individual
provincial statute may create signiﬁcant differences in the rights
and obligations of the parties.
A claim for property rights can be made in several forms, either
independently or combined with a claim for support, custody or
(f) An application for divorce, with or without claims for support, cus
tody and property rights, or, more rarely, a claim for annulment of
marriage, which might also include claims for custody, support and
property rights. The law of divorce is under the federal Divorce Act.
Jurisdiction under that Act is given exclusively to the superior court
of each province; in Ontario it’s the Superior Court of Justice or the
Uniﬁed Family Court.
Chapter 1: The Legal Remedies | 5
A separation agreement may settle as between the parties any of the
above matters that otherwise would be dealt with in the courts, except for
divorce or annulment, which can only be granted by a court. You can’t get
a divorce or annulment by agreement or consent; there must be some kind
of court process, which in undefended divorces, usually does not require a
hearing or trial. A valid, subsisting separation agreement is conclusive as to
property rights between the parties, but is not strictly binding in matters of
support, custody and access.
You don’t need a separation agreement in order to proceed with an ap
plication for divorce, but in most cases, the existence of an agreement will
greatly simplify divorce proceedings, because the only remaining issue will
be dissolution of the marriage, and people rarely argue about that.
In Ontario since 1978, and, I believe, now in every province of Canada,
there is no longer any right to claim damages for seduction or breach of
promise to marry. An offended husband can no longer sue for damages for
“criminal conversation,” which was neither criminal nor conversation, but
was a claim for money damages against another man arising from adulter
ous intercourse with his wife. It required a jury trial, and usually the wife
would willingly testify on behalf of her paramour.
A “valid and subsisting marriage” carries with it legal rights and obligations
that may not exist between unmarried partners.
A valid and subsisting marriage depends on having the capacity to
marry, and usually (but not always) observing the formal requirements for
solemnization of marriage according to the laws of the province in which
the marriage is performed, such as obtaining a licence or publishing banns
(the announcement within a church of intention to wed), and going through
some form of ceremony with a person licensed to solemnize marriages.
Marriage may be solemnized between two persons of the opposite or the
AGE OF CONSENT
You have to be old enough to get married. The laws of each province establish
an “age of consent,” meaning that persons below this age are supposed to
obtain permission to marry from one of their parents. By province, the age
of consent is as follows: Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, sixteen;
Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec, eighteen; British
Columbia, Newfoundland, and Saskatchewan, nineteen.
If nobody has status to give consent, the licence may be issued without
it. Nobody under age fourteen has capacity to marry unless to prevent il
legitimacy of an expected child. By regulations in each province, if a person
is over the minimum age but younger than the age of consent, he or she
may marry with written consent of the parents. Where parental consent is
unreasonably or arbitrarily withheld, or if it isn’t clear who should be giv
ing consent, an application may be made to a judge for an order dispensing
Chapter 2: Marriage | 7
MENTAL CAPACITY TO MARRY
You must have the mental capacity to understand the nature of the marriage
contract, and the duties and responsibilities that it creates. A person who
is demonstrably insane at the time of the solemnization has not formed a
CONSENT OF THE PARTIES
You must truly consent to the marriage as a free agent. This means that there
must be no duress or force inducing the marriage, or any misunderstanding
as to the effect of the marriage ceremony.
Marriage is prohibited between persons closely and lineally related by blood.
The prohibited degrees of consanguinity and afﬁnity are set out in the
federal Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act, which came into force in 1991.1
The Hansard Report when the bill was at its third reading in the Senate,
contains this statement about the intention of the Bill:
In the case of persons related by blood, Bill S.14 reafﬁrms the law
that persons may not marry if they are related lineally or if they are
brothers or sisters, but otherwise relaxes the law to allow marriage
between persons who are related as uncle and niece or as aunt and
nephew. In the case of persons related by marriage it clariﬁes the
law by providing that a person whose marriage has been dissolved
by divorce may marry the brother or sister, nephew or niece, or
uncle or aunt of the divorced spouse; something that is not now
permitted under the law. There would be no prohibition against
marriages involving step-relationships.
The Bill was amended to treat adoptive relationships within the family
as if they were natural relationships.
The prohibition against marriage in step-relationships was abolished,
so that now it is possible, for example, for a step-father to marry his step
daughter. As distasteful as this may be to some, in a submission to the
Senate—one of many—Professor H. Albert Hubbard said, “. . . the inability
to marry is hardly likely to deter sexual desires that persons are otherwise
inclined to indulge, and if their mutual affection is sufﬁciently strong, they
will cohabit outside the bonds of matrimony.”
1. The complex history of consanguinity legislation is admirably treated in the Canadian Parliamentary Review;
8 | Canadian Family Law
The statutory amendment does not interfere with prohibitions against
marriage between relatives that religious bodies may continue to maintain.
You mustn’t still be married to someone else. If you were previously married
and your spouse is still alive, that prior marriage must have been effectively
dissolved by divorce or annulment before you can marry again.2
This is no problem if, say, the prior marriage was solemnized in
Saskatchewan, the spouses always lived there together, and later got di
vorced there. But the situation can become greatly complicated where the
prior marriage or marriages were solemnized in one place and dissolved
in another. Suppose, for instance, that the woman was ﬁrst married in
California, moved with her husband to New York, got a Mexican divorce,
remarried in Florida and got a second divorce in Massachusetts after several
years of separation. Now she wants to marry again in Ontario. Before she
can remarry, she’ll have to satisfy the authorities that the divorces validly
dissolved the prior marriages. In order to apply for a marriage licence, the
woman in question must obtain an opinion from a lawyer that she’s validly
divorced, and ﬁle an afﬁdavit—a sworn statement—that says, in effect, that
she and her proposed new husband accept sole responsibility in the event
that she isn’t properly divorced. If it’s absolutely necessary to clarify the
effect of previous divorces, an interested party can apply to court for a de
claratory judgment stating that this is so, but that may be an expensive and
Sometimes people can’t be bothered to straighten these matters out, so
they say nothing about prior marriage when applying for a license. They run
the risk of committing bigamy, which is still subject to criminal prosecution.
In Chapter 9 we’ll consider the distinction between marriage that is void ab
initio (from the beginning) because of lack of capacity, and a marriage that
is merely voidable. The latter arises most frequently in a situation where
the parties had the capacity to marry, but the marriage couldn’t be consum
mated by at least the minimal sexual relationship (penetration of the vagina
and emission of semen) that the law requires in order to complete and
validate the marriage. Nobody yet knows how this principle would apply to
a same-sex marriage.
2. There is another way. If your spouse has disappeared and been absent for at least seven years without any
information whatever about the spouse in that time, you can apply for a court order permitting remarriage.
If the spouse turns up later, your ﬁrst marriage is still valid and your second marriage is void. However, you
haven’t committed bigamy. The Divorce Act now permits a divorce after one year of separation, so applications
merely to allow remarriage are unlikely.
Chapter 2: Marriage | 9
AN EXCEPTION TO THE RULE
At the beginning of this chapter, it was stated that parties usually have to
observe the formal requirements of a licence or banns and the prescribed
ceremony, but there are exceptions. A valid marriage may exist where the
parties had the capacity to marry, neither obtained a licence nor published
banns, but went through some form of ceremony followed by cohabitation
and particularly by birth of children. In one case, this validated a marriage
where the husband speciﬁcally and intentionally avoided the formal require
ments of solemnization, in the hope that his wife would not gain rights to
any of his property.3
RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS OF MARRIAGE
Although a full survey of the legal effects of marriage is beyond the scope of
this book, some should be noted.
A valid and subsisting marriage confers the right, and perhaps the duty,
to cohabit—to live together in a conjugal relationship—although, as we’ll
see, this may be ended without misconduct and by agreement.
During cohabitation, the spouses have a mutual obligation of ﬁnancial
support, and an individual obligation of self-support. One aspect of cohabi
tation is the expectation of a sexual relationship. A persistent and unjustiﬁed
refusal of sexual relations by one spouse may constitute “cruelty” as a basis
In Ontario, the concept of desertion has been made obsolete by the
Family Law Act. The right or obligation of support is virtually independent
of conduct.4 The only area in which desertion may still be signiﬁcant is in
possession of a home; for instance, if a husband moves out without cause,
he may ﬁnd it difﬁcult to force the wife out of the home.
No proprietary rights are created by marriage, in the sense that no
spouse becomes the owner of the other’s property, in whole or part, just
because of marriage. Marriage does create a statutory right on breakdown
of marriage to share in the value of property acquired during the marriage,
and a right of possession (not ownership) of the matrimonial home (see also
Chapter 7: Property Rights). These rights differ from province to province.
In Ontario, they are codiﬁed in the Family Law Act.
Husbands and wives have rights to share in the estate after the death
of the other, whether or not the deceased left a will. Under the Ontario
Succession Law Reform Act and under similar legislation in every province,
3. See for example Alspector v. Alspector (1957), 9 D.L.R. (2d) 679, and Harris and Godkewitsch (1983), 41 O.R.
4. Conduct does not affect the obligation to provide support, but it may (in rare cases) affect the amount of
support “having regard to a course of conduct that is so unconscionable as to constitute an obvious and gross
repudiation of the relationship” as provided in section 33(10) of the Family Law Act (Ontario).
10 | Canadian Family Law
a spouse and dependent children can apply for a court order awarding them
support from an estate even though the will of the deceased excludes them
as beneﬁciaries or makes inadequate provision for them.
Through a long period of English history, competent individuals could marry
without the intervention of any civil or religious authority. If there was at
the time a statute governing marriage, this was not the only way a marriage
could be formed. Parties could be married at “common law” quite apart
from “legal” marriage or compliance with the formal requirements of a
marriage statute, such as issuance of a licence and a ceremony of solemni
zation conducted by some person ofﬁcially empowered to do so.
To create a common-law marriage, there had to be an agreement be
tween the parties, as in some exchange of promises; legal capacity to make
a contract, for example, sufﬁcient age, sound mind, and free will; cohabi
tation; consummation by sexual intercourse; and public and continued
recognition of the relationship.
After a lengthy controversy, a statute was passed in England in 1753
aimed at the abolition of common-law marriages and secret marriages, and
that contained strict requirements for a valid marriage. By 1844, as a result
of judicial decisions, it was clear that no valid marriage could be formed at
common law in England, and that this was the state of the law at least back
to the 1753 statute.
The effect of the English statute in Canada is not as clear as it should be
after all these years. Probably the statute was not imported into Canada, so
that in every province except Quebec it is possible to have a valid marriage
in very special circumstances without strict compliance with the provincial
marriage statutes. For instance, parties may not absolutely need a marriage
licence if they go through a ceremony of some sort with the intent to be
validly married and then live together, particularly if there are children of
the union. This body of law is extremely technical. Our courts have a longstanding tendency to narrow the possibility of a valid marriage of this sort.
Also, the courts will interpret formal validity of marriage in accordance
with the law of the place where the marriage was solemnized. Many places
do not have procedures as strict as our provinces, or adverse conditions such
as war make these procedures impractical.
So, although it is possible to create a common-law marriage recognized
in Canada in the sense that common-law marriage hasn’t been speciﬁcal
ly abolished, no one who wants the legal state of marriage should fail to
comply with all of the statutory rules of the place where the marriage is
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