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Marriage and the law.

What Students Should Know

What Is A Marriage?

We all enjoy lovely weddings! It is common for students to anticipate exciting changes and happiness in their lives involving engagement, marriage, and family life.

Students sometimes forget, though, that marriage is a legal commitment as well as a personal one. This lesson invites you to explore the legal aspects of marriage and marriage contracts.

Student Activities

Activity one: Complete the Marriage Quiz

Activity two: Background Reading

Activity three: Writing a Marriage Contract

Activity four: Ranking Important Topics

Activity five: Learning Extension

To The Teacher

The lesson is designed for high school students.

This lesson includes a Marriage Quiz, background information about a marriage contract and its legal implementations, and related student activities.

The lesson may be applied to Family Studies, Law, Language Arts, or Career and Life Management.

Activity one: Marriage Quiz

As you complete the Quiz, write further questions that you would like to ask about marriage.

Quiz Questions

1. To be legally married, you and your spouse must have followed the rules and processes of the provincial government where you plan to marry.

[] True

[] False

2. You must have written consent of your parents to marry if either spouse is under the age of majority (18 or 19 depending on the province).

[] True

[] False

3. The most common minimum age at which provinces allow marriage with the consent of parents is


[] True

[] False

4. Blood tests and medical certificates are required before you get married in Canada.

[] True

[] False

5. In most provinces, you must normally apply for a marriage licence before getting married.

[] True

[] False

6. When a couple in Canada applies for a marriage licence, it is required that both people reside in the same province.

[] True

[] False

7. Both people must be mentally competent in order to be married.

[] True

[] False

8. In the province of Alberta, either spouse has the option of retaining his or her name, adopting the spouse's name, or using a hyphenated name (e.g. Smith-Jones).

[] True

[] False

9. Both people in a marriage have an obligation to financially support each other and the children of the marriage.

[] True

[] False

10. Judges and justices of the peace are allowed to perform marriage ceremonies.

[] True

[] False

Quiz Answers

True: To be legally married you and your spouse must follow the laws of the province where you plan to marry.

2. True. All provinces and territories require parental consent under the age of majority.

3. False: In all provinces the minimum age of marriage with parental consent is 16 unless there are special circumstances. The age is 15 in the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut.

4. False: Blood tests and medical certificates are not required as a prerequisite for marriage in Canada.

5. True: Marriage licences are required for marriage in each province except Quebec. Each province has its specific rules for the administration of marriage licences.

6. False: Most provinces do not require any residence requirements, but some may require a waiting period of between 24 hours and 15 days from getting the licence to the actual marriage.

7. True. Both people getting married must be mentally competent. Those under the influence of liquor of drugs will not be granted a licence to marry or have their marriage solemnized.

8. True: Some people think that the woman is required to change her name or to adopt a hyphenated name, but in Alberta, like most other provinces, either spouse is allowed to adopt the other's name or to use a hyphenated name.

9. True: Under the Criminal Code, it is an offence not to provide your spouse and your children with "necessaries" such as food, clothing, and shelter.

10. True: to be legally valid, someone who is registered to perform marriages must conduct the marriage ceremony. This includes most ministers, priests, rabbis, as well as judges and justices of the peace.

Activity two: Background Reading

Read the following information in preparation for writing your own contract.

What is a marriage contract?

A marriage contract is ah agreement signed before or after a wedding that provides a binding custom-made set of rules for dividing the couple's property should they separate, divorce or die. These decisions may differ from decisions provided by the laws of the province.

What is included in the contents of a marriage contract?

A marriage contract identifies who you are, states the purpose of the agreement and sets out a series of promises that you each make to the other.

Typically, a contract specifies who will be responsible for managing and owning assets and debts while the marriage lasts, and then it sorts out each person's rights and responsibilities if and when the marriage should break up.

What is the philosophy behind marriage contracts?

One may believe that marriage contracts apply only to the rich and famous; however, because of their binding and useful nature, these contracts are becoming increasingly popular for Canadians in all walks of life.

High divorce rates and a healthy skepticism currently affect our notions of romance, and marriage contracts reassure couples who worry about what happens if the marriage doesn't last.

Why sign a marriage contract?

Some common reasons couples sign a marriage contract are:

1. A spouse may have substantial assets that are increasing in value and may not want to share this increasing wealth if there is a marriage breakdown. For instance, one person may own property, investments, or a company that he or she would like to protect from a marriage breakdown.

2. Couples may wish to agree on spousal financial support and tax issues in the event that the marriage ends. These decisions can be made while the couple is still on friendly terms.

3.A spouse may wish to keep large inheritances within his or her family in the event of a marriage breakdown.

What ate the restrictions in a marriage contract?

There ate some restrictions on the right to contract family matters especially regarding support of children.

What are the requirements for a legally binding marriage contract?

In order to have a properly drafted and executed agreement, four simple rules must be followed:

1. the contract must be entered into voluntarily and not under any duress;

2. the agreement must be in writing;

3. the agreement must be signed by both parties;

4. the signatures must be witnessed; and

5. there must be full disclosure and honesty in the negotiations leading up to signing the contract.

What are some things to consider when writing a marriage contract?

1. It is recommended that the parties obtain independent legal advice prior to signing. Independent advice adds to the credibility of the document upon separation and lessens the likelihood of problems down the road.

2. It is important to avoid one-sided contracts.

3. It is essential that the contract is clear, complete, and thoroughly understood by both parties.

Why sign a marriage contract if you don't have any assets?

It is easy for couples to conclude that if they don't have any assets, a marriage contract would not be necessary. However, it is good to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a marriage contract.

Activity three: Writing a Marriage Contracts

Now that you know a bit about marriage contracts, take some time to research examples of existing marriage contracts. Then write a fictitious marriage contract for one of the following:

* yourself and a future spouse;

* a Shakespearian couple such as Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, or Hamlet and Ophelia;

* a famous couple in show business or sports; or

* a contract in "plain language".

Activity four: What is Your Philosophy?

It never hurts for couples to sit down and discuss their expectations in the relationship. Look at the following list and rank which you think are the most important areas for couples to agree upon. Add other areas that you think are important.

* Careers

* Religion

* Relationship with in-laws

* Children

* Working Parents

* Where you will live

* Housework

* Finances

* Vehicles

* Education

* Child Care

* Holidays

Activity five: Discussions and Presentations

During the quiz and when reading about marriage contracts, it is probable that further questions arose. After discussions with your classmates, formulate a question about one area of marriage and the law. Research, ask questions, and prepare an answer to your question. Present your answer by way of a brochure to be kept in your school for a future student reference.

Lorine Sweeney, EdD is an educational speaker and writer with a background in curriculum and instruction.
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Title Annotation:Canada
Author:Sweeney, Lorine
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:May 1, 2008
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