Yes, it is perfectly legal to get engaged before your divorce is final. A marriage engagement is an oral promise to marry someone. A marriage engagement does not require a license, nor does it generate the same rights and responsibilities that a marriage does.
Legally, you must be divorced before you can remarry. You may apply for a Certificate of Divorce after you receive your Divorce Judgment. The Certificate of Divorce is the legal document which entitles you to apply for a new marriage license. You do not need a Divorce Judgment or a Certificate of Divorce before you become engaged.
From a strict legal standpoint, being engaged during your divorce process should not affect your divorce outcome. In Canada, divorce is no-fault. Thus, in order to establish a legal basis for divorcing, you would need to establish that any one of the following occurred in your marriage:
- you lived separate and apart from your spouse for at least one year; or
- you were subjected to physical or mental cruelty of such a kind as to make continued cohabitation with your spouse intolerable.
However, depending on the temperament of your ex-spouse, being engaged may adversely affect your divorce process. Your upcoming wedding date may tempt your ex-spouse to prolong resolving some of the other issues (child custody, child support, access, spousal support, division of family property) in your divorce process out of spite.
The excitement of an engagement and wedding plans can be severely hampered by the divorce that just doesn’t seem to end. I frequently advise my clients to postpone their engagement plans: for your own peace of mind, do not announce your engagement, send out wedding invitations, or book the reception venue if your Divorce Judgment has not been received.
Dawn M. Bennett is a divorce lawyer who practises Ontario family law, including Collaborative Divorce, with Bennett Law Chambers in Mississauga, Ontario.