Quebec Appeals Ruling on Common-Law Partners’ Alimony Rights

Quebec’s attorney general appealed an appellate court’s ruling that common-law spouses are entitled to receive spousal support.

The ruling stems from a high profile case involving the split of a Quebec billionaire from his Brazilian common-law wife, who sought a $50 million lump sum payment and spousal support in the amount of $56,000 per month. The couple has three children together.

A lower court ruled in the billionaire’s favor and held that common-law spouses are not entitled to receive alimony. In November 2010, the Quebec Court of Appeal reversed the lower court’s ruling and held that Quebec’s civil code is unconstitutional insofar as it discriminates against common-law partners by denying them the same spousal support rights enjoyed by married couples. The Court of Appeal gave Quebec’s government a year to review its legislation.

Quebec filed an appellate brief on September 2nd with the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn the Court of Appeal’s ruling. Quebec Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier said that people should be able to make their own choices and decide “whether to make themselves subject to the legal consequences of marriage.” He said that since 1980, Quebec’s government has had five opportunities to revise the law on spousal support for common-law couples but declined to do so.

Spousal support is a touchy issue in Quebec, where almost half of all couples are unmarried. Quebec is the only province in Canada that does not provide for alimony for common-law spouses. Common-law partners there are only liable for child support.

Source: The Vancouver Sun, “Quebec takes alimony battle to the Supreme Court,” Marianne White, September 6, 2011

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