Tag: polygamy

09 Mar

Polygamous Marriages and the SLRA

Suzana Popovic-Montag Common Law Spouses, General Interest, Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

In Canada, polygamy is an indictable offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. Under section 293(1):

4PB04KUSBV“every one who

(a) practises or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into

(i) any form of polygamy, or

(ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time,

whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or

 (b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii),

is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.”

According to this Canadian Department of Justice research report, polygamy can refer to “the simultaneous union of either a husband or wife to multiple spouses. As a general term, polygamy therefore includes the practices of bigamy, polyandry, and polygyny.”

Notwithstanding the prohibition against polygamy in Canada, family law and succession legislation in Ontario recognizes polygamous spouses under certain circumstances. For instance, the Succession Law Reform Act and the Family Law Act both provide at section 1(2):

“In the definition of “spouse”, a reference to marriage includes a marriage that is actually or potentially polygamous, if it was celebrated in a jurisdiction whose system of law recognizes it as valid.”

In estate matters, this means that as long as the union originated in a jurisdiction that legally recognizes polygamous marriage, multiple spouses can be found to simultaneously share in the preferential share under intestacy or be able to claim as a spouse under the provisions for dependant’s relief.

With respect to the preferential share, this is not the first or last time that the definition of spouse was broadened to provide access to other groups of spouses. In 1977, access was granted to widows with children. The inclusion of polygamous spouses (where the union originated in a jurisdiction that permits polygamy) was introduced in 1990, and 2003 saw the recognition of same-sex couples.

On a similar note, there are cases where the deceased is found to have been legally married to one spouse while carrying on a common law relationship with another. Or, in other scenarios, the deceased may have been engaged in two simultaneous common law relationships immediately prior to death. These situations raise many complex issues, the latter of which can be read about in more detail in our previous blog post here.

Thank you for reading.

Suzana Popovic-Montag

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.

 

20 Jun

Polygamy and Estate Planning

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

Estate planning and litigation professionals are still mulling over how the legalization of same-sex marriage will affect their practices. Even more complex developments may be in the offing. 

An allegedly polygamist community in British Columbia and increased concerns about the possibility of polygamy elsewhere in all but name in other regions of the country raise any number of issues, not only of policy, but also estate planning.

For example, if someone dies leaving multiple spouses but only one legally-married spouse, what advantages would the legally-married spouse have over the others in the division of a contested estate?

How will the fact that bigamy and polygamy remain illegal play out in civil estate disputes?

If proscriptions on polygamy are or become ignored by governments, will the law evolve? And as it did in the case of same-sex marriage, what happens if bigamy or polygamy becomes legal, since families may become large enough that dependant’s support claims could exhaust most estates rendering much estate planning redundant?

Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

Sean Graham

02 May

The Law and Polygamy in Canada

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

The intense media coverage of the raid on the polygamist ranch in Texas has also generated scrutiny of Canada’s polygamous communities.

 

Polygamy is against the law in Canada but there has not been a prosecution of a case in over sixty years. For a background on the issues surrounding polygamy and Canadian law, read A Polygamy Primer on Osgoode Hall’s law blog, The Court.

 

The primer provides a link to a collection of research policy reports commissioned by the federal government exploring polygamy in the Canadian context. While the focus of the papers is on polygamy in a criminal law and family law context, the paper by Alberta’s Civil Liberties Research Centre discusses the civil case of Yew v. British Columbia (Attorney General) [1924] 1 D.O.D. 1166 (B.C.C.A.). In the case, the British Columbia Court of Appeal gave limited recognition to a polygamous marriage that had occurred in China to allow the two surviving wives to receive their annuities from their husband’s estate at a lower tax rate.

 

It will be interesting to see if the possible recognition of polygamous unions in the family law context will have an impact on estates law.

 

Enjoy your weekend,

Diane Vieira

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