Same-sex couples getting married is becoming more common.
I had the pleasure of attending a same-sex wedding of one of my best friends last weekend between Dustin Miller and Dragisa Cekerevac. My friend Dustin moved here from Calgary and fell in love with Victoria. His now husband came here on a trip from Germany and also decided he wanted to be Canadian. I was happy to present Dragisa a Canada flag pin which he was extremely excited about.
The event kicked off pride week in Victoria BC which lasts June 30- July 7. The mayor of Victoria and officiated her first wedding. The key points to Lisa Help’s message was that all love is welcome in Victoria.
As an update to the Times Colonist link above, Dragisa told his parents who ended up being supportive after all!
Same-Sex Couples Getting Married
As the CEO of a family law firm I don’t get invited to a lot of weddings. Perhaps couples getting married don’t like the fact that I speak to around 15 people going through divorce every workday. On the other hand, I love weddings, because I hopefully get to see the other 50% of people that don’t get divorced. There is no shortage of divorce, so I always hope my friends will never become clients and will live long happy lives with their spouses. It is great seeing love as I am tired of seeing people that use to be in love argue over the smallest of things. I can’t believe some of our clients were in love with their spouses at some period of time and had beautiful weddings.
I noticed at the wedding that many of the same-sex couples I met planned to get married in the near future. To kick off pride week, I have decided to put together a list of advice for same-sex couples getting married.
1. Get A Marriage Agreement
The reality is that 50% of people that get married are getting divorced (depends on the geographical area.) As part of a marriage agreement, same-sex couples need to consider financial support (spousal support.) Family law court is very expensive, and you can expect to spend around $20,000 on family court. It’s much better to spend $2000-3000 on getting a marriage agreement done. The agreement should not be one sided, saying that one spouse will get everything. Instead it should be a fair agreement that clearly lays out the process if a divorce were to happen. It is also possible to add that mediation/arbitration would be used instead of family court.
2. Work on Your Communication
Communication is the key to the health of any relationship or marriage. Getting married is just the first day of being married. People put a lot of effort into their weddings and they need to consider putting in effort into their marriage. This is true regardless of how long you have been married. After you get married, you will continue to grow and change as you always have done. Your hobbies and habits will also change over time. Make sure you find things to do in common, but keep in mind you don’t have to do everything together. It’s healthy and normal to have individual hobbies.
3. Have a “growth mind-set”
Getting married is just the beginning of your life together. You will want to think about what you want your lives to look like in a year, five years, and twenty years. You may have different goals for each area of your life (family, financial, travel plans, and social…etc). Make sure you agree on a general direction in life, keeping in mind that things are likely to change.
If you know same-sex couples getting married, you can pass our phone number to them. 1-844-466-6529
Alistair Vigier is the CEO of ClearWay Law, a family law firm in Duncan BC, Ottawa, and Toronto. You can connect with him on his Linkedin page.
Upholding your prenuptial agreement
Same-sex couples getting married designed to sign a prenuptial agreement (marriage agreement.) Now you are separated and think the terms are unfair. Can you overturn it in court?
Your rights and obligations
Prenuptial agreements grant rights and obligations to couples who are or intend to be married. They can apply to marriage, separation, annulment or death. Section 52 of Ontario’s Family Law Act allows couples to contract for:
- ownership or division of property
- support obligations
- the right to direct the education and moral training of their children
- any other matter in the settlement of the spouses’ affairs.
The matrimonial home and custody or access to children are exceptions. Contracts that include these are unenforceable.
Be aware a cohabitation agreement between a couple who live together is considered a marriage agreement or contract if you later marry. Both parties must agree to end a marriage contract by signing and witnessing their consent.
Do prenuptial agreements cause divorce?
Not likely, but couples who don’t enter into prenuptial agreements may think that way. A widely-cited 2003 Harvard University study found 62 per cent of those who surveyed believed a prenup sent a “bad signal” that the marriage would end poorly. Others had “false optimism” their marriage would last and a prenup wouldn’t be required. In fact, couples who participated in the study estimated their divorce odds at 11.7 per cent. Even though nearly 50 per cent of U.S. marriages (U.S. Census Bureau) and 40 per cent of Canadian unions (Department of Justice stats) end in divorce.
Study author Heather Mahar discovered only five per cent of couples had prenups.
“Just like most people think they are better than the average driver, they believe that their marriage will be happier and more stable than the average marriage,” she says (“Olin Fellow Examines Prenuptial Agreements”, Harvard Law Today, 2003 Sept 25).
Protecting your assets
Same-sex couples getting married who entered a marriage with more assets than their partner were more likely to propose a prenuptial agreement. An agreement can indeed protect your assets. It’s one more reason to consider putting your rights and obligations in writing.
Even today, pollster Ipsos reports that just eight per cent of Canadians have prenuptial agreements. Prenuptial agreements are only for the wealthy and celebrities, you scoff. Think again. Everything you own after you marry, and any increase in the value of assets you had before you tied the knot, could be divided equally with your spouse if you divorce. Even if your assets are small in comparison to NFL players and the Real Housewives of Toronto, they are worth preserving.
Same-Sex Couples Getting Married May Cause Bankruptcy
With marital or relationship breakups contributing to 14 per cent of bankruptcies in Canada, it’s easy to see why a prenuptial agreement can be a wise move. Divorced, widowed or separating couples declared 26 per cent of bankruptcies in this country in 2018, according to Hoyes Michalos’ ‘Joe Debtor’ bankruptcy study.
Your situation may be even more urgent if you own a business with someone besides your soon-to-be partner or spouse. And think about your parents. Would they want assets they gave you mixed up in a divorce?
Contracts are usually enforceable
Most prenuptial agreements are fully enforceable. That was the case for an Ontario couple who signed a marriage agreement while engaged. While still living in Russia, the fiancée received and signed a contract providing spousal support if the couple divorced. When they separated, she argued the contract should be set aside because she didn’t truly understand the document when she signed it and didn’t have independent legal advice.
Neither party disputed the contract existed. But the wife told the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (ONSC) she didn’t have a translator or lawyer to aid her when she reviewed it. She only signed so the marriage would go ahead. Nor did she receive a signed copy from her beau.
Her now husband disputed her version of events. He produced an email his fiancée allegedly forwarded with the signed contract. It read:
“Hello my dear…, I’ve just finished to read our marriage contract in Russian. Now I understand very clearly all clauses of this document […] I’d like to tell you I agree with this document and acknowledge that the terms of this contract are fair and reasonable. I wish to sign it voluntarily.”
Courts can order temporary support
Since whether the contract was valid was yet to be decided, the court temporarily upheld its terms while the divorce was underway. The judge cited a prior decision where the court ruled:
“…support is also being ordered, not as a reflection of the lifestyle enjoyed by the parties or as a determination that a triable issue exists on entitlement; rather, the support is being ordered in accordance with the terms of the marriage contract which is, at this stage, presumed to be valid.”
Courts should proceed cautiously when a marriage contract is questioned, the judge stated. Rather, the court is advised to uphold the contract’s terms temporarily until the dispute is resolved. The judge agreed some of the contract’s terms, especially a $150,000 lump sum payment, might disadvantage the husband. For one thing, giving his partner the money might allow her to flee Canada with their child. Or depending on later court rulings, he might have overpaid his wife.
Same-Sex Couples Getting Married – What ‘might be’ not at issue
While the divorce was still in process, the ONSC was not required to take these concerns into account. With the husband having custody of the child, the court ruled in favor of giving his wife the temporary financial support the marriage contract had agreed on. She received the $150,000 lump sum payment and $3,192 a month to top up her $24,000 a year income. From this, she was required to pay her spouse $192 a month for child support.
The marriage contract written so many years earlier had provided the wife with spousal support for seven years. Untl the divorce was settled, the contract was considered valid. If the court later set it aside, the lump sum payment might be deducted from the amount the husband owed. Or not, depending on what the final divorce terms were.
Before you marry or sign a prenuptial agreement, talk to our family law lawyers. Call ClearWay Law’s Hotline at 1-844-466-6529 or email info (at) clearwaylaw.com to book a consultation.