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Are you still a “spouse” if you are “Living Apart Together”?

The Globe and Mail recently published an article on couples that live apart from each other.  This particular article focuses on the story of a couple who has never shared a home in the course of their twenty-year relationship.  This couple is not alone; approximately 1.9 million unmarried adults in Canada were in an intimate relationship with someone who occupies a separate residence in 2011.

This form of intimate relationships are considered to be a historically new family form.  Sociologists have coined this phenomenon as “LAT couples“, i.e. couples that are living apart together.

 

While the article focuses on couples who are deliberately choosing to live apart, there are also external factors that may prevent a couple from living together (such as immigration or capacity issues where one spouse has greater care needs than the other spouse).

LAT couples raise an interesting question with respect to whether such couples would be considered as a “spouse” within the meaning of Part V of the Succession Law Reform Act for the purposes of dependant’s support.  Pursuant to section 57 of the SLRA, the word “spouse” has the same meaning as section 29 of the Family Law Act.

Section 29 of the Family Law Act in turn defines the term spouse as,

Interestingly, the Ontario Court of Appeal has made the following comment in Stephen v. Stawecki, 2006 CanLii 20225:

“the specific arrangements made for shelter are properly treated as only one of several factors in assessing whether or not the parties are cohabiting”.

Thanks for reading.

Doreen So