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Digest of the Week — Was Marriage a Sham?


Best v. Best |
2015 CarswellNfld 253 |
Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court (Trial Division)

Family law | Marriage | Validity of marriage | Miscellaneous

Parties' intent — Parties were Canadians who met in Saudi Arabia — It was risky for parties to maintain relationship because of strict rules governing single people in Saudi Arabia — Parties fabricated false marriage certificate — Upon deciding that they wished to live together, parties fabricated second marriage certificate that purported to have been sanctioned in Nepal — Second marriage certificate was presented to personnel department of hospital where parties worked as proof of marriage entitling them to live together in married couples' residence — Parties went to Nepal and engaged in form of matrimonial ceremony which parties acknowledged by their signatures and those of witnesses to be marriage document — Document was signed by person holding himself out to be Buddhist Lama as having authority to perform marriage ceremony — After ceremony, parties lived in Saudi Arabia as husband and wife and had two children born in Saudi Arabia — Parties cohabited for 11 years — Parties entered into separation agreement in which parties referred to one another as husband and wife — Issue arose as to whether or not parties were validly married — Whatever intent of parties, marriage could not be formally recognized by Canada as valid marriage — However, intent of parties was that they be married to each other and parties' actions lead to no other conclusion — Family Law Act was therefore engaged and federal Divorce Act had no application — Everything parties did at time of ceremony in Nepal pointed to conclusion that they both intended to be married — What followed Nepalese ceremony was elaborate set of circumstances going far beyond what was necessary to simply obtain fake certificate of marriage to present to human resources department at hospital in order to obtain married couple's residence — Man had sent postcard to Canada describing state of marital bliss and captioned photos documenting rings, bridal party, and referring to newlyweds — Fact that parties exchanged identical wedding bands during ceremony spoke clearly to parties' intent — Man's testimony that he and woman did not intend to be married pursuant to Nepalese ceremony was self-serving and incredible — Evidence supported opposite conclusion — Parties need not have gone to Nepal to fabricate lame excuse for official document from Nepal — Marriage certificate lacked most basic indicia of authority that only most naive of persons would accept as valid — Man could easily have had this document fabricated without having to go to Nepal.
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