Scenario:

Hannah, 16, and her boyfriend Shawn, 17, have decided to get married! They have been dating since Grade 9 and can’t wait to start their lives together. Shawn’s family is completely supportive of their future union and all their friends think they will be together forever. There is only one problem: Hannah’s father, Joe. Hannah’s family is very traditional and they believe Hannah and Shawn must wait until they are both at least 18 years of age in order to make such an important decision.

Joe is especially stubborn. He has made it very clear he will not allow his 16 year old daughter to get married. Because she is a minor, he is forbidding her to tie the knot until she is at least 18. Hannah and Shawn don’t want to wait 2 years for Hannah to turn 18; they want to do it right away. Does Hannah need her parent’s consent to get married because she is under the age of 18?

Legal Information

Unfortunately for Hannah, her father is right in this case: in Ontario, you must get your parents’ consent to get married if you are between the ages of 16 and 18. Unless her father changes his mind, Hannah is going to have to wait until she is 18 years old to get married. This rule comes from s. 5 of the Ontario Marriage Act.

There are two exceptions to this general rule. People aged 16 and 17 whose parents are unreasonably refusing consent, or whose whereabouts are not known, can get married with a court order (see s. 6 of the Marriage Act) or permission from the Minister of Consumer and Business Services (see s. 10 of the Marriage Act).

However, these exceptions are not very commonly applied. In Hannah’s case, a court or the Minister would need to decide if her father was unreasonably refusing his consent, or whether he had valid concerns in wanting Hannah to wait until the age of majority to get married.

Who Can Get Married in Ontario?

In addition to the age requirements discussed above, you and your partner must meet the following requirements:

  • Marriage is voluntary. Both partners must enter the marriage because they want to. No one can force you to get married.
  • You and your partner cannot be close relatives by blood or by adoption.
  • You or your partner cannot already be married to someone else. If you are divorced, proof of your divorce must be presented to receive your new marriage license.

Since 2003, you may marry someone of the same sex (a man can marry another man, and a woman can marry another woman). Many countries are following Canada’s example and legalizing same-sex marriages as well.

If you are under age 18 and living in Ontario, you can call Justice for Children and Youth (416.920.1633) to talk to a lawyer about your legal rights and getting married.

The scenario and comic were created by PLE Team volunteer Cemone Morlese.  Legal info was written by JFCY summer law student Brendan Stevens and reviewed by JFCY.