Dear Miss Powell,
My fiancÚ and I are regular readers of your column. My fiancÚ is a Jamaican living in Jamaica and we are planning to get married in Toronto next year. When I visited the registry office to get the information about what I will need to get a marriage licence, they told me that I need a lawyer's opinion on the validity of my finance's divorce in Jamaica. I showed them a copy of my fiancÚ's divorce papers and they insisted that I see a lawyer. Why would they doubt his divorce? Why would they need an opinion letter? Should my fiancÚ get a lawyer in Jamaica or here? How long will this take to be processed? Will this affect whether I can sponsor him to come to Canada later? Please advise as soon as possible, as I have already begun to make plans for our wedding here.
Congratulations on your upcoming marriage. You do not need to panic about the request for a lawyer's opinion or think that they doubt your fiancÚ's divorce. It is the law and standard practice that if a marriage is dissolved or annulled in a foreign jurisdiction (outside of Canada) the parties must obtain permission from the Minister of Government Services before a licence is issued.
It is a simple process, but you must present documents to prove the validity of your fiancÚ's divorce along with the signed application for marriage licence here in Ontario.
Since the divorce took place in Jamaica, the required documents would be:
1. Original or attested copy of the decree absolute which was granted in the Supreme Court of Jamaica
2. Legal opinion of a lawyer licensed to practise in Ontario, addressed to both applicants. This opinion should give reasons why the divorce or annulment should be recognised in the province of Ontario. The opinion should outline that the court that granted the divorce had jurisdiction to do so according to its own law
3. A Statement of Sole Responsibility signed by both you and your fiancÚ in the presence of a witness
The process is usually completed within four weeks and your licence and original documents will be returned to either you or your lawyer.
If your fiancÚ's divorce is valid, after you are married, you should have no problems submitting an application to sponsor him to come to Canada; provided that you are both able to satisfy the requirements for that process. Bear in mind that he will also need to pass the medical and criminal checks.
I recommend that you contact an Ontario lawyer to make this a memorable and stress-free process.
Deidre S. Powell is a lawyer, mediator and notary public who is a member of the Jamaican and Ontario, Canada, bars, with main office located in Ottawa, Ontario. Her areas of practice are in immigration, commercial, real estate, personal injury, family and administration of estates. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject line: Immigration or telephone: 613-695.8777.