The Supreme Court of Canada has released its long awaiteddecision regarding spousal support for common law couples in Quebec. The Court ruled that common law spouses in Québec are not entitled to receive spousal support upon a breakdown of the relationship. That leaves Québec, a province with approximately 1.4 million common law spouses, as the only province in Canada that does not extend spousal support to common law couples. The case began in 2002 when a Brazilian woman separated from her billionaire partner after seven years together in a common law relationship. The couple had three children. The woman had wanted to get married but the man refused, saying that he did not believe in the institution of marriage. While he already pays child support, she sought spousal support and access to Québec’s property division regime. These remedies are only available in Québec to spouses who are married or in civil unions.
The Court split in four different ways in its decision and found that while the Québec law violates the right to equality under the Charter, it is nonetheless constitutional and common law relationships will not be able to seek spousal support. Despite the ruling however, Québec Justice Minister Bertrand St-Arnaud has not ruled out reforms to the province’s spousal support laws. He said, “It’s true that in the last decade, our social and family realities have evolved, and is it time for us to start to think again about the regime in our civil code? Maybe.” “It is something we will have to examine in the coming weeks,” He said he would consult with cabinet colleagues as well as legal and family experts before making commitments to any major reforms.