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Marriage

For more comprehensive family law information go to:

nsfamilylaw

Q - What is marriage?

A - As of July 2005, 'Marriage, for civil purposes, is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.'

Q - Who can marry?

A - Anyone over 19 years of age may apply for a marriage licence in Nova Scotia. If you are under 19 years of age you must first obtain the consent of both parents. If you are under the age of 16 years you must have the consent of both parents and also get the consent of the Court before you can marry. Your local Deputy Issuer of Marriage Licences has the required consent forms. For a list of Deputy Issuers of Marriage Licenses visit http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/access/vitalstats/marriage-licence.asp

Same sex couples are permitted to marry in Nova Scotia. For a copy of the federal Civil Marriage Act visit Justice Canada's website laws-lois.justice.gc.ca

You do not have to be a Nova Scotia resident to be married here, but a marriage licence issued in Nova Scotia is only valid in this Province.

Q - Who cannot marry?

A - Individuals who are presently married are not allowed to remarry before their first marriage has legally ended. Separation is not sufficient. If you want to marry and you were previously divorced, you will be asked to provide final proof of divorce (called Certificate of Divorce or Decree Absolute) when you apply for a marriage licence. If the divorce occurred in another country and the final divorce papers are in another language, you will need to provide a copy of the translated document.

If you were widowed, you must provide proof of death of your spouse.

In addition, the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act prohibits persons who are closely related by marriage, blood or adoption, or who are brother and sister, half brother and half sister, or adopted as a brother and sister from marrying one another (laws-lois.justice.gc.ca)

Q - Who can perform the ceremony?

A - In Nova Scotia, couples can choose to have either a religious or a civil ceremony. Every ceremony must be witnessed by two people who are at least 16 years of age. Religious groups can refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs.

The religious representative you choose to perform a religious ceremony must be registered with Nova Scotia Vital Statistics under the Solemnization of Marriage Act.

A Justice of the Peace or a Judge will perform a civil ceremony. The Deputy Issuer of Marriage Licences can provide a list of Justices of the Peace authorized to perform marriages in your area. You can also get this list from the Nova Scotia Department of Justice website: http://www.gov.ns.ca/just/.

The fee for a religious marriage ceremony is set by agreement between the religious representative and couple being married. The fee for a marriage ceremony performed by a Judge or Justice of the Peace is set by the government.

Q - Who do I contact to get married in Nova Scotia?

A - To be lawfully married in Nova Scotia, you must contact:

  • the Deputy Issuer to apply for a marriage licence, and
  • a religious representative, judge or justice of the peace, to perform the ceremony.
  • Please see additional questions below for more information, or contact Nova Scotia Vital Statistics.


Q - How do I get a marriage licence in Nova Scotia?

A - Under the laws of Nova Scotia you must have a marriage licence before getting married in Nova Scotia. The licence does not mean that you are married, but only that you may get married. The licence will expire one year from the date it is issued.

Either you or the person you intend to marry must apply in person to a Deputy Issuer of Marriage Licences in your community. The person applying will have to provide identification and proof of age for both parties to the intended marriage. Information required with identification will include: full name, including given names, age, marital status, and current address.

In Halifax Regional Municipality, you can purchase a marriage licence by appointment with a Deputy Issuer, or from a Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) Customer Service Centre during regular business hours. In all other areas of Nova Scotia, you can purchase the licence by appointment with a Deputy Issuer, or from a Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Access Centre.

Visit www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/access/vitalstats/marriage-licence.asp for a list of the Deputy Issuers in each county and their contact information. The fee for a marriage licence is $121.78, and there is a five-day waiting period between the day you apply for the licence and the date that the licence will be issued.

Q - Do I have to register my marriage?

A - Yes. All marriages performed in Nova Scotia, must be officially registered by the Vital Statistics Office of the Government of Nova Scotia. This formal documentation is your proof of marriage. Registration is not the same as a marriage licence.

The person who performs the marriage ceremony must complete the marriage registration form which becomes the official record of the marriage. He or she must send the completed Registration form to the Deputy Issuer of Marriage Licenses within 48 hours of the marriage ceremony. The Deputy Issuer forwards the Registration Form to the Office of Vital Statistics which registers the marriage and keeps the legal record.

Registration of the marriage registration form is free.

Q - What is a marriage certificate?

A - At the time of the ceremony, your religious representative or Justice of the Peace or Judge will provide you with a certificate of marriage. This certificate is a "memento" document, and is not legal proof of marriage. After the marriage, and following the receipt and registration of the Marriage Registration Form, you may apply to Vital Statistics for an official Marriage Certificate, which is legal proof of marriage.

To order an official marriage certificate, visit: www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/access/vitalstats/marriage-certificate.asp

Q - How soon can I marry after divorce?

A - You can marry anytime after your divorce is final and you have a Certificate of Divorce. This usually means 30 days after the judge grants the divorce and provided there is no appeal from your spouse. However, when planning a date for the wedding, keep in mind that it takes five days to get the marriage licence and you won't be able to apply for a licence until you have proof that the divorce is final.

Q - Do I have to take my husband's name when I marry?

A - No, you may:

  • keep using your current surname if you wish, or
  • go back to using your given name if you were previously using a former spouse's surname, or
  • use a combination of your name and your spouse's name or
  • your spouse could take your name.


Q - If I get married outside of Nova Scotia, or outside of Canada, is there anything special I have to do to have the marriage recognized in Canada?

A - No. All the licensing and legal requirements will be according to the laws in the province, state or country where the marriage is performed. The marriage will be registered where it took place, outside Nova Scotia.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada issues 'Statements in lieu of Certificates of Non-Impediment to Marriage Abroad' for persons who want to get married outside Canada in a country where such a document is needed. For more information visit international.gc.ca or call 1 800 267-8376. 

Q - How do you annul a marriage?

A - An annulment is a legal declaration that the marriage between two people never came into existence. There is a presumption that a marriage ceremony was properly carried out. This presumption can be rebutted if, for example, there is proof that :

  • the marriage ceremony was not performed by an authorized person,
  • a marriage licence was not obtained, or
  • one or both of the parties to the marriage were minors and did not have the parents' consent.

A marriage may be void (never came into existence) if:

  • one of the parties was still married to someone else when the marriage took place
  • the marriage violated the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act which prohibits marriage between certain close relatives.
  • one or both of the parties was incapable of giving consent at the time of the marriage as a result of insanity, illness or intoxication etc.
  • one of the parties was acting under duress, or
  • one of the parties was mistaken as to the identity of the other party.

Where a marriage is annulled, property reverts to its original owner as if the marriage did not take place. Children of the marriage are not considered to be illegitimate as long as either parent thought the marriage was valid. The children's rights in relation to care, financial support and inheritance from their parents will not be affected.

A religious annulment is not the same as a legal annulment. If you have a religious annulment and you want to remarry, you may have to get a divorce or a legal annulment as well.

Q - What happens if a marriage breaks up?

A - Where a marriage breaks down, parties must decide whether they wish just to separate or to divorce and formally end the marriage. To get a divorce, one or both of the parties must apply to the court to grant a divorce on the grounds that there has been a breakdown of the marriage. A breakdown of the marriage can be established in Canada in one of three ways:

1) the spouses have lived separate and apart for at least one year,

2) one of the spouses committed adultery,

3) one of the spouses was physically or mentally cruel to the other.

On either separation or divorce, a spouse may be entitled to apply for child custody or access, child support, spousal support and a division of matrimonial property. For more information, please refer to the family law pages relating to separation, divorce, child and spousal support, custody, access and matrimonial property.

December 2011

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