The law recognizes some couples as spouses. Under the law, spouses have certain rights. Married couples, whether they were married in Canada or another country, are spouses. In Saskatchewan, couples who have lived together for two years or more are also spouses. In some situations, couples who have lived together for less time may also be spouses.For example Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada considers a couple to be spouses if they have lived together for a year or more.

You do not give up any of your legal rights and freedoms because you are a spouse. You have the legal right to continue to go about your own life independent of your spouse. However, spouses do have legal obligations to each other.

Getting Married

If you and your partner want to get married you both need to be:

  • unmarried 
  • at least 18 years old (16 or 17 year olds can get married if their parents agree to it. No one under 16 can marry without the consent of a judge.) 
  • not closely related by blood (A person cannot marry their grandparent, parent, child, grandchild or sibling.) 

You will need a marriage licence. You can get one at most jewelry stores and local town or city halls. There is a fee of $50. You and your partner will need Identification, such as a driver's licence or birth certificate. 

Both parties will have to give the licence issuer personal information. You will need to provide your names, addresses, current marital status and any blood relationship between the two of you. If either of you cannot understand English, you must arrange to have an interpreter present. If either party is divorced, a final divorce document must be presented.

Once you have a marriage licence you can be married by any person who is registered to perform marriages in Saskatchewan. This could be someone from your place of worship or a clerk at a city or town hall. You will need two witnesses over the age of 18. You can have any type of marriage ceremony you choose.

Ending a Relationship 

If you want to end a marriage you will need a court order, called a divorce. A long period of separation does not end the marriage. A religious ceremony or annulment cannot legally end a marriage. People are not free to re-marry until they have a divorce.

A court will grant a divorce if there is a breakdown of the marriage. The most common way to show this is by living apart for at least a year. The other grounds are adultery (one spouse has sex with someone other than their spouse) or cruelty (physical or emotional abuse). 

Either spouse can apply for the divorce. The other spouse must be notified about the divorce application. To apply for a divorce in Saskatchewan you must have lived here for at least one year. It does not matter if you were married in a different province or country you can still apply for a divorce here once you have lived here for at least a year. A divorce you get here may not be recognized by the country you were married in.

If you are living together but not married no court order is needed. The relationship ends if you decide to no longer live together. 

Legally ending a relationship can be quite simple. Other issues may be more complicated. Deciding where the children will live, when they will see the other parent, how family members will be supported and how to divide property often needs to be resolved at the same time. 

If you are a permanent resident, ending your relationship with your spouse will not mean you have to leave Canada. This is true even if your spouse is your sponsor. However, if you have temporary status or you are your spouse’s sponsor you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible about your situation. 

Changing Your Name 

You do not have to change your last name when you become someone’s spouse. You can choose to keep using the last name you were given at birth or the last name you were using when you became a spouse. You could also choose to start using your spouse’s last name or use a double name made up of your last name and your spouse’s last name. 

You do not need to apply to change your last name if you choose one of these options. Unmarried spouses, however, must sign a declaration that they are spouses and file it with Vital Statistics

If you choose to use a different last name you need to get your name changed on things like your driver’s licence, health services card and bank accounts. Most places charge a fee to issue new documents. 

You can decide to change back to your own last name or one of the other options at any time during the relationship. If you separate, you can change back to your own last name or the name you were using before you became spouses. 

Support for Spouses 

Spouses must financially support each other, if it is needed. You must provide your spouse with basic things like food, clothing and a place to live, if they cannot provide for themselves. 

Even if you and your spouse separate you may still have to support your spouse. Spouses who were married or have lived together for at least two years may need to pay support. Unmarried couples who had a child together and lived together in a relationship of some permanence may also need to pay support. You and your spouse might agree about support. If you do not agree either of you can apply to court for a support order. 

There is no automatic right to spousal support once a couple separates. The court will consider how much money each spouse makes. They will look at whether one spouse needs support and whether the other spouse can afford to pay support. They will consider whether a spouse who is not working could get a job and how much that job would pay. How long the spouses have been together and things like whether one spouse stayed home to look after the children will also be considered.

Published on October 21, 2016.

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