Family law: Marriage fraud and how to avoid it

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Family law: Marriage fraud and how to avoid it

For a resident of Ontario, getting romantically involved with a person of another country may have devastating consequences. Someone a person meets on the internet or while on a trip may feel like the perfect soul mate. However, to get that individual to settle in Canada and become a spouse or common-law partner, not only Ontario marriage and family law come into play, but also immigration laws. With the prevalence of internet fraud, it may be wise to make sure the other party is not merely seeking residence in the country.

Marriages to obtain residency are illegal and may lead to criminal charges. Some Canadian citizens offer to sponsor foreign nationals by setting up convenience marriages, but experienced authorities can spot marriage fraud by checking documents, visiting the homes of sponsors and interviewing both parties. The requirements for a person who is in Ontario as a sponsored common-law partner or spouse include staying with the sponsor for two years after obtaining citizenship.

However, if the couple has been living together for more than two years, if they have children together or there is evidence of abuse or domestic violence, the requirement to live together for two years may fall away. A sponsor must support the spouse or partner financially for three years — even if they decide to end the marriage sooner. If that spouse then receives social assistance, the sponsor must refund the government with the total amount of assistance provided. Furthermore, until that debt is settled, that person may not sponsor anybody else.

For these reasons, even those who are completely smitten with each other may be wise to consult an experienced family law attorney in Ontario. Such a professional can ensure the sponsor knows exactly what his or her responsibilities will be toward the sponsored person. A seasoned lawyer can also assist with the drafting of a marriage or cohabitation agreement to protect the interests of both parties.

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