The title of this article is an excerpt from Justice LaForme’s dissent, in an Ontario’s Court of Appeal decision dealing with the multiple spouse conundrum in the context of Ontario’s Pensions Benefits Act. This is not an endorsement of bigamy. It is addressing a growing social phenomenon.
The Divisional Court decision in the Quinn v Carrigan case (Quinn), is useful for both lawyers and non-lawyers to determine the range of support that a court may award when a dependant is disinherited.
Heather and Chaim never believed in marriage. They lived together for 20 years, had 3 children and were happy. Chaim was hit by a truck and dies. He had no Will. Had Heather been legally married she could have: had the right to elect for an equalization payment under the Family Law Act1; or received an inheritance by virtue of an intestacy under the Succession Law Reform Act2. Since there was no Will, Heather would have inherited a preferential share of the estate equal to $200,000 and 1/3 of the balance to share with the Chaim’s three children.
Can you imagine burying a spouse and then being sued for support by a mistress? For those who believe in primacy on marriage and that marriage obligates its partners to fidelity, the idea of rewarding a mistress to a portion of the family's inheritance is unjust. Others argue that financial obligations should flow from the intensity and duration of life partner relationships regardless of the partners' marital status. What do the courts think?