Marriage Like Relationships

Marriage Like Relationships

Weber v Leclerc 2015 BCSC 6550 reviewed the law relating to what constitute a marriage like relationship in a matrimonial dispute where the female was against the institution of marriage and opposed such a finding of being in a marriage like relationship.

 

The parties did a considerable number of things together that would indicate that their relationship was marriage like, whether the female intended it to be or not:

 

The parties lived together from 2002 until at least 2011, or later (according to Mr. Weber). The following facts are not disputed:

• Mr. Weber has two sons, and Ms. LeClerc has one. The children resided with them (although Mr. Weber shared parenting responsibility with his ex-wife), before they left home as adults.
• The boys were about the same age. Mr. Weber and Ms. LeClerc raised their separate children together.
• They had family portraits including themselves and all three boys that were displayed in their home.
• They shared a bedroom and had sexual relations throughout that period and were monogamous.
• They had a family dog and a boat.
• The parties had contact with extended family, particularly Mr. Weber’s family. They visited that family and exchanged Christmas gifts and received presents from them.
• The parties purchased property together and shared expenses. The title of the home in which they lived is in Ms. LeClerc’s name, although Mr. Weber made a contribution to its purchase and shared mortgage payments, until the mortgage was paid off in 2008.
• The parties purchased other properties together and generated income from those properties according to Mr. Weber. This is not contradicted by Ms. LeClerc.
• For the most part, the parties kept their finances separately. Ms. LeClerc assisted Mr. Weber by loaning him money from time to time. Mr. Weber repaid those loans.
• The parties vacationed together, along with their sons. They collected memorabilia from those vacations and stored them with labels stating: “Weber LeClerc family”.
• Mr. Weber and Ms. LeClerc shared meals together, although Mr. Weber was busy with his son’s hockey activities.
• They both did the grocery shopping.
• They spent their evenings together, although Mr. Weber would watch television and Ms. LeClerc would read in a separate room.
• They went out together as a couple for dinner or to dinner parties with friends.
• Mr. Weber and Ms. LeClerc did not discuss marriage, except perhaps on one occasion. Ms. LeClerc is opposed to marriage.
6      The parties disagree on how they spoke of each other, whether it was as a spouse or partner. Mr. Weber says he would introduce Ms. LeClerc as his wife, Ms. LeClerc disagrees.

 

 

                        THE  LAW

 

In Austin v. Goerz, 2007 BCCA 586, the court explained that no single factor is dispositive of the issue of whether the parties were spouses. For example, financial dependence was at one time considered to be an essential aspect of marriage of the marital relationship. That is no longer the case. At paragraph 55 the court states: “Today marriage is viewed as a partnership between equals and there is no principled reason why marital-equivalent relationships should be viewed differently.”

The court adopted the judgment of the Ryan-Froslie J. in Yakiwchuk v. Oaks, 2003 SKQB 124 at paragraph 58:

[58] It is understandable that the presence or absence of any particular factor cannot be determinative of whether a relationship is marriage-like. This is because equally there is no checklist of characteristics that will invariably be found in all marriages. In this regard I respectfully agree with the following from the judgment of Ryan-Froslie J. in Yakiwchuk v. Oaks, 2003 SKQB 124:[10] Spousal relationships are many and varied. Individuals in spousal relationships, whether they are married or not, structure their relationships differently. In some relationships there is a complete_blending of finances and property – in others, spouses keep their property and finances totally separate and in still others one spouse may totally control those aspects of the relationship with the other spouse having little or no knowledge or input. For some couples, sexual relations are very important – for others, that aspect may take a back seat to companionship. Some spouses do not share the same bed. There may be a variety of reasons for this such as health or personal choice. Some people are affectionate and demonstrative. They show their feelings for their “spouse” by holding hands, touching and kissing in public. Other individuals are not demonstrative and do not engage in public displays of affection. Some “spouses” do everything together – others do nothing together. Some “spouses” vacation together and some spend their holidays apart. Some “spouses” have children – others do not. It is this variation in the way human beings structure their relationships that make the determination of when a “spousal relationship” exists difficult to determine. With married couples, the relationship is easy to establish. The marriage ceremony is a public declaration of their commitment and intent. Relationships outside marriage are much more difficult to ascertain. Rarely is there any type of “public” declaration of intent. Often people.


[12] Madam Justice Dardi in
J.J.G. v. K.M.A., 2009 BCSC 1056 provided a helpful summary of the authorities in paragraph 37:begin cohabiting with little forethought or planning. Their motivation is often nothing more than wanting to “be together”. Some individuals have chosen to enter relationships outside marriage because they did not want the legal obligations imposed by that status. Some individuals have simply given no thought as to how their relationship would operate. Often the date when the cohabitation actually began is blurred because people “ease into” situations, spending more and more time together. Agreements between people verifying when their relationship began and how it will operate often do not exist.

In summary, in undertaking an analysis of whether persons are living together as spouses, the court must examine the relationship as a whole and consider all the various objective criteria referred to in the authorities. The presence or absence of one particular factor will not be determinative. The court must recognize that each relationship is unique and, in applying a flexible approach within the context of the particular relationship, make a determination as to whether the parties intended to and were living in a marriage-like relationship.

Ms. LeClerc’s lack of belief in the institution of marriage is beside the point. As is pointed out in Yakiwchuk, people may choose not to be married for a variety of reasons: “[t]heir motivation is often nothing more than wanting to ‘be together”‘. This appears to have been the motivation here.

Trevor Todd

Trevor Todd is one of the province’s most esteemed estate litigation lawyers. He has spent more than 40 years helping the disinherited contest wills and transfers – and win. From his Kerrisdale office, which looks more like an eclectic art gallery than a lawyer’s office, Trevor empowers claimants and restores dignity to families across BC. He is a mentor to young entrepreneurs and an art buff who supports starving artists the world over. He has an eye for talent and a heart for giving back.

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