Tag: Part V

22 Mar

A new kind of marriage – Family law and estate claims heard together

Stuart Clark Litigation Tags: , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

It is not uncommon for dependant’s support claims to be commenced contemporaneously with family law claims after death, with the dependant’s support claim often forming a sort of safety net should the family law claim not be successful. This is likely in part on account of section 63(4) of the Succession Law Reform Act providing that an Order providing for the support of the deceased’s dependants can be made “despite any agreement or waiver to the contrary“, such that the court in certain circumstances can make an Order for dependant’s support notwithstanding that agreements such as marriage contracts may have been entered into prior to death which may otherwise have severely restricted the surviving spouse’s entitlements.

While it is not uncommon for family law and estates claims to be brought contemporaneously, this can sometimes result in an in issue in the form of a multiplicity of proceedings, with multiple proceedings being before the court at the same time, often on different court lists. In Toronto, the family law claims would likely proceed before the Family Court, which is governed by its own “Family Law Rules“, while the estate law claims would proceed before the Estates List of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, with such a process being governed by the more standard Rules of Civil Procedure. Different courts, different rules, different timelines.

It appears that such a multiplicity of proceedings became an issue in the recent Cohen v. Cohen decision, with the Applicant’s counsel eventually moving to have the family law and estate law proceedings consolidated and heard together before the Family Court. Opposing counsel objected, taking the position that a dependant’s support Application under Part V of the Succession Law Reform Act could not be heard before the Family Court, and that such a proceeding must proceed before the standard Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

In ultimately rejecting the position of opposing counsel, and ordering the family law claims and the estate law claims to be heard together before the Family Court, Justice Maranger provides the following commentary:

Counsel representing the estate argued that a strict reading of section 57 (1) of the Succession Law Reform Act (“court” means the Superior Court of Justice) statutorily precludes consolidating a dependant’s relief application with a family law act application, because the SLRA does not specify Superior Court Family Branch. I reject that argument, clearly a reference to the Superior Court of Justice can in certain circumstances allow for the reading in of the Superior Court Family Branch. A family branch judge is a Superior Court judge for all purposes including hearing cases under the Succession Law Reform Act.”

Cohen v. Cohen suggests that estates law cases and family law cases can be consolidated and heard together by the same court notwithstanding that such courts may be specialized for a different purpose. What impact, if any, the use of the Family Law Rules would have upon adjudication of an Application for support under Part V of the Succession Law Reform Act remains to be seen.

Thank you for reading.

Stuart Clark

07 Sep

Update: Can divorced spouses be dependants?

Stuart Clark Support After Death Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

Back in February 2017 I blogged about how, as a result of a recent change in the definition of “spouse” within the confines of Part V of the Succession Law Reform Act (the “SLRA”), divorced spouses could arguably no longer qualify as a “spouse” of the deceased individual for the purposes of dependant’s support. As a divorced spouse would be unlikely to be included amongst any other class of individual who could qualify as a “dependant” of the deceased, the effect of such a change was to potentially deprive divorced spouses from the ability to seek support from their deceased ex-spouse’s estate following death.

The issue centered on the removal of language from the definition of “spouse” within Part V of the SLRA. The definition of spouse previously included language which provided that a “spouse” included two people who “were married to each other by a marriage that was terminated or declared a nullity”. The revised definition provided that “spouse” under Part V of the SLRA had the same meaning as section 29 of the Family Law Act. As section 29 of the Family Law Act did not include similar language to the definition of spouse including two people who “were married to each other by a marriage that was terminated or declared a nullity”, but rather simply provided that “spouse” was defined as including two people who were married to each other or who are not married to each other but cohabitated continuously for a period of not less than three years (i.e. common law spouses), the argument was that divorced spouses could no longer be “spouses” for the purposes of Part V of the SLRA.

Much debate ensued in the profession following such a change in definition about what impact, if any, it would have upon a divorced spouse’s ability to seek support after death. Such debate now appears to be moot, as the Ontario legislature appears to have acknowledged the confusion caused by the change in definition, and has again changed the definition of “spouse” within the confines of Part V of the SLRA with the passage of the Stronger, Healthier Ontario Act (Budget Measures), 2017, S.O. 2017, C.8 (the “Stronger, Healthier Ontario Act”).

In accordance with “Schedule 29” of the Stronger, Healthier Ontario Act, the definition of “spouse” as contained in Part V of the SLRA now reads as follows:

“Spouse” has the same meaning as in section 29 of the Family Law Act and in addition includes either of two persons who were married to each other by a marriage that was terminated by divorce.” [emphasis added]

The revised definition of “spouse” leaves no doubt that divorced spouses can qualify as a dependant of their deceased ex-spouse within the meaning of Part V of the SLRA. Interestingly, while the revised definition of “spouse” clearly includes divorced spouses, it does not contain a reference to those individuals whose marriage was “declared a nullity” as the previous definition of spouse contained. As a result, it is still questionable whether those individuals whose marriage was declared a nullity could be considered a “spouse” within the confines of Part V of the SLRA, and whether they could bring an Application for support as a dependant of their ex-spouse’s estate following death.

Thank you for reading.

Stuart Clark

Find this blog interesting? Please consider these other related topics:

Can Divorced Spouses no longer be Dependants?

Cohabitation and Marriage

Dependant Support Claims, Limitation Periods and the Vesting of Real Property

06 Feb

Can Divorced Spouses no longer be Dependants?

Stuart Clark Support After Death Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

A recent amendment to the definition of “spouse” within the confines of Part V of the Succession Law Reform Act (the “SLRA“) has likely made it such that divorced spouses may no longer bring an Application for support as a dependant of their deceased ex-spouse’s estate. This is in stark contrast to the previous definition of “spouse” in Part V of the SLRA, which allowed divorced spouses to bring an Application for support.

Section 57 of the SLRA defines a “dependant” as including a “spouse” of the deceased to whom the deceased was providing support, or was under  a legal obligation to provide support, immediately before his or her death. As an ex-spouse of the deceased would not qualify amongst any other class of individuals who may be a “dependant” of the deceased (not being a parent, child, brother or sister), the effect of removing them from the definition of “spouse” is to preclude them from being able to qualify as a “dependant” of the deceased.

The old definition of “spouse” within Part V of the SLRA was as follows:

‘spouse’ means a spouse as defined in subsection 1(1) and in addition includes either of two persons who,
     (a)        were married to each other by a marriage that was terminated or declared a nullity; or
     (b)        are not married to each other and have cohabitated,
          (1) continuously for a period of not less than three years, or
          (2) in a relationship of some permanence, if they are the natural or adoptive parents of a child” [emphasis added]

From the bolded section above, it is clear that divorced spouses previously qualified as a “spouse” of the deceased for the purposes of determining dependants. If the deceased was providing support, or was under a legal obligation to provide support, to their ex-spouse immediately prior to their death, and they did not make adequate provision for them from their estate, the court could make an order providing for their support under section 58(1) of the SLRA. This is likely now no longer the case.

The definition of “spouse” in Part V of the SLRA was recently amended by section 71 of the All Families Are Equal Act, which came into effect on December 5, 2016. The new definition of “spouse” in Part V of the SLRA is as follows:

” ‘spouse’ has the same meaning as in section 29 of the Family Law Act”

Section 29 of the Family Law Act (the “FLA“) defines “spouse” as follows:

” ‘spouse’ means a spouse as defined in subsection 1(1), and in addition includes either of two persons who are not married to each other and have cohabitated
     (a)        continuously for a period of not less than three years, or
     (b)        in a relationship of some permanence, if they are the parents of a child as set out in section 4 of the Children’s Law Reform Act.”

Section 1(1) of the FLA further defines spouse as follows:

” ‘spouse’ means either of two persons who,
     (a)        are married to each other, or
     (b)        have together entered into a marriage that is voidable or void, in good faith on the part of a person relying on this clause to assert any right.”

The definition of “spouse” in section 29 of the FLA, and section 1(1) of the FLA by extension, notably does not include any reference to divorced spouses being included amongst the class of individuals who could be considered “spouses”. As the definition of “spouse” in Part V of the SLRA now mirrors that of section 29 of the FLA, it appears that divorced spouses can no longer qualify as “spouses” under Part V of the SLRA, such that they may no longer qualify as a “dependant” of the deceased. As only a “dependant” may bring an Application for support, the effect of the change is that ex-spouses may likely no longer bring an Application for support under Part V of the SLRA.

While section 34(4) of the FLA contemplates that any previous order providing for the support of an ex-spouse would bind the deceased spouse’s estate unless the order provides otherwise, the inability for ex-spouses to proceed under Part V of the SLRA could have a significant impact in the context of insolvent estates. Under section 72 of the SLRA, assets which pass outside of the estate, including life insurance policies and/or joint-assets which pass by right of survivorship, can be made available to satisfy an order for support. The FLA does not appear to have an equivalent provision, such that any support order may likely only be paid for out of the estate. As a result, to the extent that there are insufficient assets in the estate to satisfy any outstanding support order, or to the extent that such an order has not yet been made, the divorced spouse may be out of luck. While previously the divorced spouse could have brought a claim under Part V of the SLRA, and seek the payment of any support order from assets such as life insurance policies and/or joint-property under section 72 of the SLRA, this option appears to no longer be available to them.

Thank you for reading.

Stuart Clark

Other blog posts you might enjoy:

The All Families are Equal Act is Passed

New Financial Disclosure Requirements Under the Family Law Rules

The Case for Financial Support of Non-Conjugal Caregivers

07 Apr

The Role of Section 72 in the Succession Law Reform Act

Noah Weisberg Beneficiary Designations, Estate Planning, Joint Accounts, Pension Benefits, RRSPs/Insurance Policies Tags: , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

For my ‘Thursday Throwback’ post, I turn to an important 1981 decision from the High Court of Justice considering section 72 of the Ontario Succession Law Reform Act.

0DU466L58GIn Moores v. Hughes, an application was brought by a divorced wife for dependant support pursuant to Part V of the SLRA.
As a result of certain debts owing at the time of the Deceased’s passing, his net estate amounted to $40,000.  However, as there were assets that passed outside of the Deceased’s Estate in the approximate amount of $365,000, comprised primarily of insurance policies, a joint bank account and a pension plan, a thorough analysis of section 72 of the SLRA, was undertaken.  A helpful Hull & Hull LLP podcast on section 72 assets can be found here.

Often referred to as the ‘claw back’ provision, section 72 deems certain transactions to be included as testamentary dispositions as of the date of death and included in the value of an estate and available to be charged for payment for dependant support purposes.  As the addition of section 72 had only recently been enacted, Justice Robins stated that the, “…section makes a significant change in the law as it stood before the enactment of the Succession Law Reform Act…Manifestly, the section was intended to ensure that the maintenance of a dependant is not jeopardized by arrangements made, intentionally or otherwise, by a person obligated to provide support in the eventuality of his death”.

Based on the Court’s interpretation of the (then) newly enacted section 72, the insurance policy, joint bank account, and pension plan, were all included in the estate and thus made available for dependant support.

Despite this interpretation, there remains estate planning techniques available to ensure that certain jointly held life insurance policies fall outside of the claw back provision of the SLRA, as addressed in the Ontario Court of Appeal decision in Madoire-Ogilvie (Litigation Guardian of) v. Ogilvie Estate.

Noah Weisberg

07 Feb

Dual Co-habitation and Claims for Support

Hull & Hull LLP Estate & Trust Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

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Can a deceased person, immediately before his or her death, be found to have been in a common law spousal relationship with two persons, each of whom could assert a claim for support as a dependant?  This was the interesting question recently considered on a motion for interim support under Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act ("SLRA").

In Blair v. Cooke, the Applicant commenced an Application against the Estate seeking dependant support, and subsequently brought a motion seeking interim support from the estate.   In support of her application, the Applicant filed an extensive affidavit describing the history of her relationship with the Deceased and argued that she is a dependant spouse of the Deceased, thus, entitled to support under the provisions of the SLRA.  The court was also provided with numerous affidavits of friends and acquaintances confirming the Applicant’s 11-year relationship with the Deceased.

The Respondent is the estate trustee of the estate for the Deceased, and also argues that she is the Deceased’s common law spouse.  It is important to clarify that the Respondent does not make a claim for dependant support, but rather opposes the Applicant’s application.  In doing so, the Respondent filed her own affidavit and the affidavit of friends and acquaintances, which would corroborate that she was the Deceased’s common law spouse.  The Respondent argued the court should not make any finding of entitlement to support for the Applicant, because doing so would preclude her from claiming support (if she decided to make a claim at a later date) or claiming that she was in fact the “spouse” of the deceased. 

In considering whether or not a person could have two spouses for the purpose of making a dependant support claim, the court considered section 57 of the SLRA, more particularly the following definitions:

1.      “Dependent” can be a  “spouse of the deceased…to whom the deceased was providing support or was under a legal obligation to provide support immediately before his or her death…”. 

2.      “Spousal” is further defined under the SLRA as “either of two persons who…are not married to each other and have co-habited…continuously for a period of not less than three years”; and

3.       “Co-habit” is defined to mean living together “in a conjugal relationship”.

The “twist” that I found interesting in this case, was that the court found that there was enough evidence to conclude that the deceased may have co-habited with two different women, in different homes.  The court stated that they did not have to determine that one party was a spouse and the other was not for purposes of awarding interim support; in fact both women could qualify.  The Applicant was awarded interim support.

Rick Bickhram – Click here for more information on Rick Bickhram.

 

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