It seems pretty straight forward that in order to get married a second time, one has to be divorced from the first marriage. However, as we often see in court cases, complications often arise in individual situations that require the courts to dig in and sort out what ends up being a complicated issue. Such was the case in a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court Of Justice where a man was married three times, but divorced only once. The court had to determine the validity of his second and third marriages.

A series of marriages

The husband entered into his first marriage in June 1984. They were separated in 1996 and were divorced in 2005. It was during the period of separation that the husband married the second wife in 2001. They became separated in 2003. The husband married the third wife in 2008 and they separated on June 30, 2016. The husband came to the court to get help in determining which of his marriages were valid, and how his mess could be undone.

Step one: Which marriages were valid?

The court stated that the first step in its analysis of how each marriage should end is to determine which marriages were valid. Only valid marriages require an annulment or divorce. The court said, “If either of (the husband’s) marriages were invalid from the start because he lacked the capacity to marry, that marriage is void from the beginning and a decree of annulment may be issued. If either marriage was valid, then the proper mechanism is divorce.”

Step two: Assessing each marriage

The first marriage was entered into without either party being married at the time, making it valid to begin with. Additionally, a divorce was obtained for it. This was the easiest one to assess with both the marriage and the divorce being carried out properly.

The second marriage, however, was entered into before the first marriage officially ended. The husband told the court that the second wife was believed to be living in Buffalo, and that he had tried unsuccessfully to locate her. At one point he claimed to have asked at City Hall in Cambridge, Ontario (where he lives) about having the marriage annulled. He testified that he thought this inquiry led to the annulment of the marriage. Unfortunately, it did not. The court determined this marriage was not valid, but did not want to make any other decisions concerning it until the second wife could be located.

The third marriage was entered into following the divorce of the first marriage. As a result, this marriage was valid, which meant that a divorce could be granted.

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