By Douglas J. Manning, Partner, Certified Specialist in Family Law
Yes! But why would you want to?
While not exactly bigamy, it is possible to have more than one spouse at the same time. If you are separated from your spouse to whom you are still married, you are still legal spouses in the eyes of the law. This has several consequences:
- You are not free to re-marry;
- In the event of your death, your separated spouse will be entitled to widow/widower survivor benefits within the Canada Pension Plan;
- If you have not changed your Will, then your spouse may still be entitled to receive whatever you left them in your Will even though you are separated.
You could also have a “common law” spouse at the same time as having a married spouse. If you have cohabited continuously for at least 3 years with another person (of the opposite or same sex) then this person could be your spouse as well!
Well, in the event of a separation after 3 years of cohabitation, you could have a spousal support obligation to this person, as well as having a spousal support obligation to your married spouse. Isn’t that a kicker!
Also, having 2 spouses at the same time could create complications for your extended health insurer. The vast majority of employee health insurance plans provide prescription, dental, eyeglass coverage to the employee and to their “spouse”. But most plans will not cover 2 spouses at the same time. This could increase the cost to the insurer significantly so most insurers limit eligibility to one spouse at a time please.
Also, having more than one spouse at the same time could create confusion for life insurance companies. If a separated but still legally married spouse has a life insurance policy on their life that they are required to maintain because they have a support obligation to their married spouse and/or children of the marriage and at the same time the insured has a common law spouse with whom they have had children and the insured dies, then there is the very real possibility that you will have 2 surviving spouses fighting over the insurance proceeds. The insurance company won’t know who to pay the policy proceeds to. Undoubtedly this type of situation will end up in litigation with the money being tied up for years.
So, if you are considering diving into the pool of committed relationships after coming out of a separation in which not all of the loose ends have been tied up, you would be well-advised to get some legal advice first. Love may be blind, but as we all know – it ain’t cheap!