Friday January 15 2021

General publication

Compensation For De Facto Spouses

The expression “de facto spouses”refers to partners who are not married or civil union spouses, and who therefore do not benefit from the same legal protections and remedies such as spousal support (alimony), compensatory allowance, and compensatory payments, to name a few.

Although de facto spouses may not invoke the legal remedies which are provided for in the Family Law chapter of the Civil Code of Quebec, they may still invoke those in the other civil and contractual law chapters. 

Pursuant to the article 1493 of the Civil Code of Quebec,de facto spouses mayopt for an unjust enrichment remedy. This remedy should not be interpreted as a means to rebalance the patrimonies of the spouses and to indirectly apply the rules of family patrimony applicable to married or civil union spouses, nor does it impose a partnership of acquests. 

As the Honourable Pierre J. Dalphond, J.C.A. of the Quebec Court of Appeal explained, it should be used : “... solely to compensate one party for a contribution, in property or services, that enabled the other party to be in a better position than he or she would have been in had the parties not lived together, in short, that enriched the other party.”

On November 27, 2020, the Quebec Courts have confirmed just how far the protections provided in the article 1493 C.c.Q. reach.   In Droit de la famille — 201878, the Quebec Court of Appeal rendered a decision that confirmed a trial judgment in which a de facto spouse was granted damages for unjust enrichment from her multimillionaire businessman ex-spouse, to the amount of $ 2.4 million.

The parties began cohabitation in 1997. As of 2000, the Appellant-father became fully invested in his businesses, while the Respondent-mother assumed all household responsibilities and took care of their two children, in addition to having a job. As of 2007, given the success of his businesses, the father considerably reduced his working hours. In 2012, he sold one of his businesses, which personally earned him $ 17 million. A few months later, he broke up with the mother.

When the de facto spouses separated, the father left the relationship with a disproportionate share of the wealth accumulated through the joint efforts of both parties. While the efforts of the mother were not fully compensated at the moment of separation, they were made not only with the common goal of starting a family, but also with that of achieving a certain result during their cohabitation, which was to share the wealth that the parties had created together.

In order to determine the indemnity to be payable to the mother, the Court granted the mother 20% of the increase in the value of the father’s business between the years 2000 and 2012.

This recent judgment allows us to better understand the extent to which a de facto spouse’s contribution during cohabitation may be financially compensated, as well as the applicable methods of determination.

Jessica Zegarelli, Lawyer

Alepin Gauthier Avocats Inc.

This text contains legal information of a general nature and should not replace legal advice with a lawyer or notary who will take into account the particularities of your situation.