Are You In A Vancouver BC Marriage Like Relationship?
Our top rated Vancouver family lawyers, want our Vancouver and BC family law clients and the public to be aware substantial changes to spousal support and property rights are now in effect under the new BC Family Law Act. Thousands of dollars can ride on whether you are, or are not, in a Vancouver common law or marriage like relationship. We have 15 lawyers located in 4 family lawyer law offices across BC in downtown Vancouver, Surrey, West Kelowna and Fort St John BC. Contact us now as delay can ruin your case.
Our Vancouver family lawyers explain the recent marriage like and common law marriage spousal support dispute decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Walker v. Brown, 2013 BCSC 204:
Mr. Walker was a 50-year old unemployed bachelor living on welfare before he met and engaged in a marriage-like relationship with Ms. Brown, a 71-year old wealthy widow.
After a 14 year relationship Mr. Walker made a claim for spousal support. This claim was supported by the fact that Mr. Walker had become financial dependent on Ms. Brown during their relationship.
The parties never married.
Now at age 66, Mr. Walker sought spousal maintenance on the basis of a long term “marriage like relationship” with Ms. Brown under the Family Law Act. He sought an amount consistent with the standard of living he previously enjoyed.
This trial involved two main issues:
1. Was Mr. Walker a “spouse” within the meaning of sec. 1(1)(b) of the Family Relations Act?
2. If found to be a spouse, is he entitled to financial support?
Ms. Brown, now 86 years, disputes his claim and says the Claimant was merely a platonic live-in friend, serving as a domestic male security escort, travelling companion and heavy luggage porter.
In addition to the couples having separate rooms at home Ms. Brown also had Mr. Walker sign a “Residency Agreement” stipulating that neither party was entitled to the other’s assets, however the couple traveled extensively and shared accommodations while doing so. They also would attend family and social events together and for all intent and purposes extended themselves as a couple. The court supported the claim that the parties were in a marriage-like relationship, specifically due to the fact that during the relationship the parties:
1. Ate their meals together;
2. Travelled and socialized together;
3. The parties had endearing nicknames for each other;
4. Ms. Brown had written love notes to Mr. Walker; and
5. Ms. Brown had taken care of all the parties’ finances.
The court found that these factors supported the notion that Mr. Walker and Ms. Brown engaged in a psychological and emotional union necessary for a marriage like relationship. Due to this classification of the relationship the residency agreement could not override the marriage-like relationship.
After separation Mr. Walker informed Ms. Brown that he would be writing his memoirs detailing their relationship, this memoir included crude and vulgar language detailing the parties’ sex life. Mr. Walker then threatened to distribute said memoir to Mr. Brown’s children and friends, as well as the British tabloids, as Ms. Brown was a former world-class figure skater.
In response to this threat Ms. Brown sought a permanent restraining order against Mr. Walker.
Finding of the Honourable Mr. Justice Wong:
The court awarded Mr. Walker a lump sum payment of $157,000. This decision was due in part to the marriage-like relationship that the couple engaged in as well as the fact that Mr. Walker had become economically dependent on Ms. Brown during the relationship, the only income he received after the relationship ended was old age pension and Canada Pension and government income supplement, for a total annual income of $25,000. The court found that Mr. Walker had very limited future job prospects and was unfairly disadvantaged economically due to the relationship break up.
The court granted Ms. Brown a permanent restraining order against Mr. Walker. This order was supported due to the fact that Mr. Walker threatened Ms. Brown in an attempt to intimidate her in order to make a financial gain.
IT IS VITAL TO UNDERSTAND WHAT CONSTITUTES A MARRIAGE LIKE RELATIONSHIP – PLEASE CONTACT ONE OF OUR LAWYERS IN OUR VANCOUVER, SURREY, FORT ST. JOHN OR KELOWNA OFFICES AT 604 602 9000.