The Role of Religion in Divorce and Separation

The Religious doctrine may influence a person’s individual beliefs and family practices, including the availability of divorce. In Canada, either spouse can apply for a legal divorce or legal separation regardless of whether their religion permits divorce or separation.

Courts can grant you a legal divorce if all requirements are met and decide on corollary matters including custody, access, child and spousal support.

A legally divorced individual would be free to remarry in a civil ceremony, but Canadian courts cannot grant a religious divorce. Ontario court of justice assists spouses in facing certain barriers to religious remarriage.

Removing Religious Bars to Remarriage

Under the federal Divorce Act, a court can refuse to grant a civil divorce if the spouse requesting the divorce is refusing to remove religious barriers to the remarriage of their spouse. For example, under Jewish law where divorce is permitted, a husband must grant his wife a get and the wife must accept it. If the husband refuses to give a get, his ex-spouse could not remarry according to Jewish law.

A spouse could serve on the court and the offending spouse an affidavit indicating the nature of the barriers. The offending spouse within fifteen days would need to remove those barriers. The court may refuse to exercise its power if the spouse has “genuine grounds of a religious or conscientious nature” for refusing to remove the barriers.

Under provincial legislation, Ontario’s Family Law Act, a court has the power to set aside all or part of a separation agreement if there are barriers to the spouse’s remarriage. A spouse will have 10 days to remove all bars within their control.

It is important to note that a court can only enforce the removal of barriers within the control of the spouse and not those in the control of religious bodies or officials.

Religion and Corollary Matters

A parent with no religious beliefs stands in an equal position as a parent with a religious association. Courts will consider only the best interest of the child when making custody and access decisions. Regardless of what your faith dictates and your beliefs and practices are, courts will decide on property division, child support and spousal support payments.

Religion for some couples can play a very large role in separation or divorce, which can add a layer of complexity. If religion is influencing your divorce proceedings or separation, do not hesitate to contact us. Our Family Lawyers can discuss your legal matter in more detail over a free consultation.

You can reach our office at 905-366-0202 or contact us through our website here.

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