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Change in law permits same-sex divorce

For years, nonresident gay and lesbian couples who were married in Alberta and other provinces have existed in a kind of limbo. Family legal issues arose because Canada refused to allow gay couples divorce if they did not meet the one-year residency requirement. At the same time, individuals from other countries may have lived in places where their own government did not recognize their marriage. Canadian law, however, has recently been modified to allow for the divorce of non-residents.

A case involving two professional women in their 30s attempting to get divorced recently reached a satisfactory conclusion. They were from Florida and the United Kingdom, respectively, where their marriage was not recognized by either jurisdiction. The Canadian federal government tried to prohibit the divorce at first by saying that the marriage was invalid because their home jurisdictions did not recognize it. To thousands of other individuals who were married in Canada, this meant that their own marriages may have been legally meaningless. However, a change in the law has reassured these individuals that their marriages are still valid as a Toronto judge granted the first divorce of its kind for these women on Sept. 10.

The new rules are applicable to same-sex couples who reside in a jurisdiction that doesn't recognize same-sex marriage. Although Canadian residence is no longer required under the new rules, a couple must live apart for a year. The Prime Minister said that the government has fixed the gap in the law and "addressed a legal unfairness" that would allow gay marriage but not gay divorce.

Calgary family law lawyers may be able to assist same-sex partners with family legal issues. They may be able to help individuals get a divorce under the new laws or help resolve a child custody issue.

Source: The Globe and mail, "Foreign couple’s divorce a first for same-sex unions solemnized in Canada", September 11, 2013

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