It might be your obligation

Q&A By John T. Syrtash, Associate,
Garfin Zeidenberg LLP, a Toronto family law lawyer for the past 38  years

Question: I was married and divorced outside of Canada (both were in the United States.) Do I still need to go through the same process as people who married in Canada and divorced elsewhere when I remarry? Or can I apply directly for an Ontario marriage license because both events happened outside of the country? 

Answer:  You can still get married in Ontario, but you require a legal opinion from an Ontario lawyer in a particular form that needs to be filed with the Ontario Registrar General that your foreign divorce is recognized under Canadian Law. For instance, under Canadian law, you can’t just fly to Las Vegas, get a “quicky divorce” come back to Toronto and then remarry. You must have stayed in Nevada for one year before  the day you commenced your legal proceedings for a Nevada divorce  before Canadian law recognizes the Nevada Court’s authority to grant such a divorce under Canadian law.  It doesn’t matter if the foreign jurisdiction grants you a divorce before the one year.  You must have resided in that foreign jurisdiction for these 12 months first..  To get such a legal opinion from an Ontario lawyer costs as little as $1000,. 

Question: I was married to my ex-husband for 11 years and separated from him in 2005. We are not legally divorced as of yet. Six years ago, I a collection agency harassed me about a satellite dish we had purchased. They  also said that they could not pursue my husband because he lives on an aboriginal  reservation. We are both natives. Now I have another company that is coming after me now for furniture that was purchased in about 15 years ago as well.

Answer: If the purchase pertained to a joint debt, such as for an item purchased on a joint credit card (not a card in which is the principal cardholder and you are only a supplementary cardholder)  then you may have a legal obligation to pay it. However, once the debt is due, the law only permits creditors two years to sue. Accordingly, in most cases, the Ontario Limitations Act will prevent any lawsuit against you. So the   furniture debt going back to 2005 will not likely succeed against you. If its not a  not a “joint debt” but a debt solely originating with your spouse, then you may still  have an obligation to pay your spouse’s unpaid bills for “necessities of life” if the purchase was made less than two years ago.  Neither item seems to be a necessity of life so I wouldn’t worry about it. Just show the Court that you never contracted to purchase the item Moreover, its not like he bought food or shelter.

John Syrtash is an associate and family law lawyer with the Toronto firm of GARFIN ZEIDENBERG LLP.

Neither GARFIN ZEIDENBERG LLP nor John Syrtash is liable for any consequences arising from anyone’s reliance on this material, presented as general information and not as a legal opinion.

John T. Syrtash,
Yonge-Norton Centre
5255 Yonge Street, Suite 800
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M2N 6P4
Cell:  (416) 886-0359
Fax: (416) 512-9992

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