Relationships can come in all different shapes and sizes. Upon separation, the details of a non-traditional relationship may come under scrutiny as courts try to determine whether one spouse owes another spousal support. This was the case in a recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

14  years together

The parties began their relationship on October 17, 2001. The woman had two children from a previous relationship, though they were independent adults by the time of the trial. The man also had children from a previous relationship. Before they met, the woman had purchase d home in Toronto where her and her children lived. She was still living there when the relationship ended on May 11, 2015.

The man in the relationship was extremely wealthy. He also had children from a previous relationship, and all of the children lived with him in various homes he owned. He and the woman involved did not ever live together during their time together.

Seeking spousal support

When the relationship came to an end in 2015, the woman sought spousal support from the man. She claimed she was treated as a wife by the man. She testified that he gave her an engagement ring, a wedding band, and an eternity band. She also said they celebrated their anniversary each year. Additionally, they man sent her cards which professed his love for her and their relationship. While she didn’t live with the man, she referred to him as her spouse on documents such as her passport.

The man’s position was that the woman was a travel companion, and girlfriend, but nothing more. Since they didn’t live together he said she couldn’t be considered his spouse. He told the courts they maintained separate bank accounts, and that while he gave her a credit card to use, she didn’t have carte blanche to spend. He said he wouldn’t move in with her unless they signed a domestic contract. While one was written up, it was not ever signed.

Determining whether the couple were spouses

Section III of the Family Law Act (the “FLA”) defines “spouse” as follows,

“ ‘spouse’ means a spouse as defined in subsection 1 (1), and in addition includes either of two persons who are not married to each other and have cohabited,

(a)  continuously for a period of not less than three years….”

Meanwhile, section 1(1) of the FLA defines “cohabit” as “to live together in a conjugal relationship, whether within or outside marriage.”

The court found that while they certainly had a relationship longer than three years, the issues remained as to whether they lived together and maintained a conjugal relationship.

After looking at their relationship, the court found that they did meet the definition of “spouse” under the FLA. While they didn’t live together during the year, they did live together in their cottage over the summer months. As a result, the court awarded the woman $53,077 per month in spousal support on an indefinite basis.

The experienced family law lawyers at Borden Family Law have been advising clients on issues relating to spousal support for over 18 years. We focus solely on family law and have a strong base of knowledge and experience in the nuances of all areas of family law. We rely on this focused experience to provide exceptional guidance to clients seeking assistance following the breakdown of their relationship. We serve clients in Oshawa, Ajax, Pickering, Brooklin, and the surrounding areas. To see how we can help you resolve your issue, call us at 905-576-6090 or contact us online.