In a recent case out of Ontario, Lowe v. A.A., 2018 ONSC 3509, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice was given the difficult task of sorting through the complicated love life of the applicant, Mr. Errol Lowe.
Mr. Lowe had entered into three marriages in the province of Ontario. Two of those marriages were entered into while he had prior existing marriages. Mr. Lowe had only been divorced once. Consequently, he applied to the Court for help in “undoing” his second and third marriages. The Court noted that Mr. Lowe’s circumstances were unusual and his complex marital history required the Court to examine the evidence and first determine the appropriate legal nature of each of his three relationships in order to identify the appropriate mechanisms for ending them. The Court noted that, in order to legally end Mr. Lowe’s second and third marriages, the Court would have to decide whether the marriages were valid in the first place. Whether or not the marriages were valid would affect whether they could be ended by annulment, or alternatively, by divorce. If the marriages were invalid from the start, a decree of annulment could be issued. If the marriages were valid, then the proper way to end them would be via a legal divorce.
Ultimately, the Court found that Mr. Lowe’s second marriage was invalid from the start. The Court found that Mr. Lowe’s later divorce from his first wife did not change the fact that he lacked the capacity to enter into the second marriage, because he was already married at the time. As such, the proper mechanism to undo the second “marriage” was by an annulment. However, the Court found that by the time Mr. Lowe entered into his third marriage, his first marriage had already ended in divorce and his second marriage had no legal standing. As such, the Court found that Mr. Lowe’s third marriage was valid and, consequently, had to be ended via a legal divorce.
Importantly, the Court in this case commented on the outdated law of annulment, noting that much of the case law in that area dated back to an earlier time, when divorce was less accessible. The Court noted that the statutory basis for annulments in Canada was adopted from the laws of England as of 1870, and had not been updated since that time by Canadian legislative enactment. However, the Court went on to note that annulments are still relevant in today’s society, as they are sometimes sought where a spouse is misled or deceived into entering a fraudulent marriage. The Court also found that, in some communities, divorce continues to carry a stigma and annulment, where available, may be a preferred legal mechanism for ending a marriage.
If you have any questions about annulments or divorce, contact the experienced family law lawyers at Vogel LLP today for more information.