Unjust Enrichment Family Lawyers help married and unmarried family law clients obtain a just result. MacLean Law’s Unjust Enrichment Family Lawyers act across Canada with offices across BC in Calgary and downtown Toronto. The claim is useful in cases where corporate assets need to have liens registered against them even if family property claims can be made under provincial family legislation. Our savvy high net worth family lawyers may make these claims to help you protect and obtain remedies against multimillion-dollar businesses. This claim is required for property division in unmarried committed marriage-like relationships. In provinces like Ontario, it is particularly important as common-law couples are not treated the same as married couples like spouses are in BC and Alberta after a certain period of living together. In today’s blog Lorne MacLean, QC, and Rana Yavari of our national family law Unjust Enrichment Family Lawyers team explain how the rules work.
Unjust Enrichment Family Lawyers 1 877 602 9900
The doctrine of unjust enrichment applies where one party receives a benefit from another in circumstances where it would be against all conscience for the benefit to be retained. Unjust enrichment – as a cause of action – is made out where
- (i) the defendant is enriched;
- (ii) the plaintiff is correspondingly deprived; and
- (iii) there is no juristic reason for the enrichment.
More recently, in the seminal case of Kerr v Baranow out of BC, the Supreme Court of Canada held per Cromwell J. that a concept of a joint family venture clarifies how constructive trust works in family law cases, and to succeed a spouse must provide evidence of:
- mutual effort
- Did the parties work collaboratively toward common goals?
- Did the couple have children?
- How long was the relationship?
- economic integration
- Did they have any joint assets?
- Did they share expenses and accumulate common savings?
- Basic expense sharing only evidence of cohabitation.
- the actual intention of the parties
- What did the parties intend to do?
- Was it always intended that each would keep their own portion?
- How to determine intentions:
- Jointly owned property probably suggests an intention to share
- Remembering your common-law partner in your will
- How much attention was paid to who paid for what and when? If there was little attention paid, that is strong evidence that they intended to share.
- What if the parties’ intentions are not the same?
- Parties ought to have known of the other’s intention to share.
- the priority of the family
- Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts?
- Did one or both spouses sacrifice something for the sake of the family unit?
- Includes everything from staying home for a time to raise children, not taking a promotion, accepting underemployment to balance family duties.
To get a direct claim to the property including land or businesses the claiming spouse must demonstrate a link or causal connection between his or her contributions and the acquisition, preservation, maintenance, or improvement of the disputed property, and that a property or cash award would be unfair.
Remedies for unjust enrichment may be either:
- proprietary (such as a remedial constructive trust) if a cash award is not fair; or
- personal (such as a monetary remedy, frequently based on quantum meruit).
Societal Norms Means Not Every Contribution Means A Claim Wins
Where a spouse provides services without compensation to the benefit of the other spouse of a kind that societal norms would dictate that he or she provide, and where those services do not exceed the level of societal tolerance to be properly characterized as exploitive, the societal norm renders the retention of the benefit of those services as “not unjust”, thus constituting a juristic reason to deny compensation for the services performed by the spouse.
In Milne v. MacDonald Estate.1986 (“MacDonald”), Ms. MacDonald and Mrs. Milne lived together as husband and wife from 1974 to 1976 and from 1978 to 1983. They supported themselves from Mr. MacDonald’s earnings until 1978 when he became ill and commenced receiving disability benefits. In 1979, Mr. MacDonald was diagnosed with cancer and required a great deal of care which Mrs. Milne provided. Mr. MacDonald died and Mrs. Milne brought an action against Ms. MacDonald’s estate claiming damages for unjust enrichment.
The British Columbia Court of Appeal in MacDonald ruled:
 There is nothing here comparable to Deglman. Mrs. Milne rendered nursing services to Mr. MacDonald on the same basis as a person cares for a spouse, on the same basis as Mr. MacDonald had supported Mrs. Milne over the years. “Gratuitously”, the term used by the trial judge, accurately describes the basis of the services Mr. MacDonald and Mrs. Milne rendered to one another.
 …. It is not enough for the court simply to determine that one spouse has benefited at the hands of another and then to require restitution. It must, in addition, be evident that the retention of the benefit would be “unjust” in the circumstances of the case.
Call our Unjust Enrichment Family Lawyers today across Canada if you have worked hard in a joint family venture or feel you have contributed time and effort to property or your spouse and not been fairly treated. Call our national Unjust Enrichment Family Lawyers toll-free across CANADA at 1 877 602 9900.