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What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!

What separating spouses can learn from the Brangelina split

Separating spouses can learn from the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie breakup, says Toronto-area family lawyer Reesa Heft.

“Making your marital issues public, involving your entire family and talking to your friends is not helpful,” Heft, principal of Heft Law, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

The public spectacle surrounding the Brangelina breakup is similar to “private people who air their laundry to their circle of friends,” Heft says.

Pitt recently opened up about the divorce in an interview with QC Magazine, pledging he’s “trying to get better,” CBC reports.

The Pitt-Jolie dispute is rarified, apparently stemming from an alleged incident between Pitt and one of his children on a flight.

“That sort of scenario, on a private plane, isn’t going to happen to your average person,” Heft says.

She says airing the issues could “exasperate the anger, no question, and it also gives people false expectations” in the divorce process.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have said, ‘Well, my friend is getting $4,500 a month support, how come I’m only getting $1,000?'” Heft says.

No matter what the cause of the split “it’s hard for people to divide their assets,” she says, adding sometimes the whole truth doesn’t come out in the gossip.

“When you’re talking to people about their own divorces, they do two things. One, they exaggerate immensely, which has an effect on how you view your situation,” Heft says. “Secondly, people lie.”

Heft says each case is unique, as are the factors considered in each family law matter.

“There are really only five main issues to deal with and the facts to settle those are unique in every case,” she says.

They include: custody and access; child support including Section 7 expenses; spousal support; equalization, which includes the matrimonial home; and division of property.

Allowing emotions to cloud the big picture could make proceedings more difficult and painful for the parties, or Heft says cause one side to capitulate and settle for less than what they are entitled to in an effort to end the turmoil and conflict.

She says she urges parties to use their “rational brain” to discuss the issues with their lawyers rather than their “emotional brain.”

“It’s a cycle,” Heft says. “They go from being angry, to OK, back to angry again. It can start off very intense and emotional, requiring a resolution on an interim basis.”

That can be followed by a period of tranquility, she says.

“There are clients I haven’t spoken to for a year because they found some sort of calm middle ground for now.”

Heft says depending on the circumstances, she often recommends joint family counseling, not so much to reconcile the marriage but so the parties learn to communicate in effective and respectful ways.

If children are involved, Heft says a therapist can be helpful in focusing angry or upset parents on the transition their children are going through during a separation or divorce. She says most people don’t have the emotional skills to deal with a tumultuous event like a divorce and they “make do.”

Divorce is often expensive and many couples don’t opt for therapy because it is seen as too pricey, she says.

“All of a sudden, half of what you had isn’t available anymore,” Heft says. “Plus on top of two parties paying legal fees, it’s a financial drain on any marriage, which means you might have to forego the cost of a therapy to pay your legal bills.

“People cope,” she says. Heft says a good support network could work in lieu of a professional, including a friend or family member who can provide a shoulder in tough times.

“People who do this by themselves without any sort of emotional net are in a very precarious position and it may lead them to make inappropriate decisions,” she says.

Just get hitched? Better have a marriage licence

But even if married by someone lacking authority, couples who marry in good faith still have legal union

Back in August, 2016, it was widely reported that wedding officiant, Paul Cogan, was performing marriages in Ontario without the proper authority to do so. Many couples thought they were married, but it turns out they were not. (Cogan has been charged with solemnizing a marriage without authority.)

The legal question is: What is the status of the marriage and the “spouses?”

There are religious marriages and civil marriages. Often, from the outside perspective, they are the same. Often, the minister, rabbi or other religious officiant has the power to consecrate the marriage religiously and then to sign off on a marriage certificate, thereby making the marriage a civil or legally recognized union. The marriage certificate registration is the important aspect of the marriage for it to be marriage in law.

It is not uncommon for people to decide to forgo the civil aspect of the marriage and have only a religious marriage. A common reason for this can be that people want to be married but economic reasons, such as a financial benefit, will no longer be available if they are civilly married. Civil marriages are very common but the reasons for them can range from differing religions of the parties, cost, or non-affiliation with any religious order.

If you are married religiously only, the most obvious consequence is that you do not need a divorce upon the breakdown of the marriage. The marriage or union will be dealt with in a manner similar to common law relationships where there are no automatic property rights in the other parties’ accumulated property.

The more perplexing situation is when the parties “thought” they were married and most important, intended to be married. Cogan sent off many couples (48 couples according to newspaper sources) believing they were husband and wife and lawfully married. However, without a marriage certificate, the couples were not married.

In order to be married in Ontario, the parties must have registered the marriage with the province and have a marriage licence. No licence translates to no marriage. The Ontario Family Law Act, section (1)(b) defines “spouse” as “two persons who have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right” as the result of the marriage.

Marriage means marriage under the Marriage Act. In s. 4 it then states that no marriage can be solemnized, except under the authority of a licence issued in accordance with the act. The case of Yangaeva v. Kershtein [2001] O.J. No. 6258, provides that there must be a recognition of each party to change their legal status from single to married. Furthermore, it states that there must be an official who is legally authorized to change the legal status of the parties from single to married. This is found in ss. 20 and 24 of the Marriage Act.

Where intention and what actually occurred do not align, the Marriage Act at s. 31 deals with marriages solemnized in good faith. In the event that the parties were married in good faith and intended to be married, so long as there is no legal reason to disqualify any party from being married, then the parties are married. Therefore, in the case of the parties married by Cogan, in all likelihood, if the they were under the impression Cogan was fulfilling his obligation to provide a legal marriage and this is what was intended, their marriages will be recognized a valid marriages. This would be notwithstanding Cogan’s lack of authority to perform a marriage. The good faith portion of s. 31 relates to the intention to comply with Ontario law. Lozinko v. Bazylok [1976] O.J. No. 402 found a marriage is valid where there was evidence that a marriage ceremony has been solemnized, the parties lived together as a couple and there is no evidence that this was not a marriage.

Destination weddings are very common today. While the margaritas may have been good, is the marriage good? Most resorts that perform weddings also require you to bring a marriage licence. While the resort may register the marriage for you, it is your responsibility to ensure the registration of the marriage in Ontario. This is good common sense. This is a precaution that should be taken when marrying abroad in order to ensure that the marriage is valid.

If a marriage is found to be invalid, then it is as if the parties are common law spouses and the dissolution of their relationship is treated in the same way unmarried couples are treated. However, if the marriage falls under s. 31 of the Marriage Act and the parties married in good faith, the parties intended to be married, then the marriage will be treated as valid, property and other issues will be determined as if the parties were married, however, there will be no need for a divorce certificate.

So if you marry in good faith and the marriage is solemnized, keep the presents.


Reesa Heft is the owner of Heft Law, a firm restricted to the practice of family law in the Greater Toronto Area.

This article originally appeared in the February 17, 2017 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

What to Wear to Court

When I started writing the first blog for the Heft Law website, I realized that it would be more fun to write a “fashionista” blog than a law blog.  So for that reason, I am going to combine the two for this particular blog. Surprisingly, fashion and law can coincide.

My family law clients have often asked me what to wear to court for their court appearances.  While at first blush, this seems like a frivolous question, I think this is a very intelligent question.

The answer is: Dress as if you are going to a funeral.

I know that many lawyers tell their clients to dress up for court, probably meaning do not show up at court in your dirty ripped jeans (even if they are cool).  The problem is: what does it mean to “dress up” for court for different people.

A few days ago, I was sitting in the courthouse and a family entered, obviously to attend at a family hearing of some sort.  One family member was wearing a floor length sequined-adorned dress in a vibrant shade of blue…..perfect for an after-party of a Drake concert.  Her friend or family member was wearing a dress at least three sizes to small and about 5 inches too short.  This is NOT court attire.

The guiding principle is: dress to show that you have RESPECT for the court, for its jurisdiction, for the judge and for all the court personnel who are there to serve and/or assist you. Do not be fooled though, how you dress will not decide your case, but at a minimum, at first instance, you will present well and perhaps, because we are all human, judges too, you will be judged favourably by virtue of your show of of respect.  On the other hand, a show of disrespect will not work in your favour!

Heft Law Introduction

We are excited to launch a brand new introduction video. Learn about Heft Law – Family Law Lawyers.

Please share!