Supreme Court of Canada rules on common-law relationships

Supreme Court of Canada building, Ottawa, Onta...

Supreme Court of Canada (Image via Wikipedia)

On Friday, 18  February 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada handed down unanimous rulings on two cases involving estranged common-law couples.

According to the Globe and Mail,

…the Court emphasized that when one partner has contributed substantially to a business, property or the success of the other’s career, they should gain a benefit that properly reflects their contribution.


“In my view, where both parties have worked together for the common good, with each making extensive, but different, contributions to the welfare of the other and, as a result, have accumulated assets, the money remedy for unjust enrichment should reflect that reality,” Mr. Justice Thomas Cromwell wrote for the majority.

“The money remedy in those circumstances should not be based on a minute totting up of the give and take of daily domestic life, but rather should treat the claimant as a co-venturer, not as the hired help,” he said.


“The legal consequences of the breakdown of a domestic relationship should reflect realistically the way people live their lives,” he said. “It should not impose on them the need to engage in an artificial balance sheet approach which does not reflect the true nature of their relationship.”

For a lawyer’s review of one of the cases decided (Kerr v. Barranow), see this blog post by Andrew Feldstein, a family law specialist in Toronto.