Cohabiting: You May have a Claim for Unjust Enrichment

Vanasse v. Seguin

In April 2010, The Supreme Court of Canada made one of the most important family law decisions.

Ms. Vanasse was in a common-law relationship that lasted 12 years. For three and a half years during that period, she took a leave of absence from her employment with the Federal Government to stay home and care for their three children.

Mr. Seguin was the CEO of his software business and worked long hours and travelled extensively.

She had accumulated very little by way of assets while his company was worth millions.

They separated in 2005, and Ms. Vanasse initiated proceedings claiming unjust enrichment, arguing that providing childcare and domestic services enabled her partner to pursue his business interests.

Vanasse’s argument was that he had benefitted financially from her decision to stay at home.

The Supreme Court of Canada declared that Ms. Vanasse was entitled to half of the value of the wealth her partner had accumulated during the period of unjust enrichment.

This was a significant decision for unmarried common-law spouses, as for the first time it clarified that spouses can claim a share in the wealth accumulated during a relationship. This case was based on the unjust enrichment principles found in the Law of Restitution. This was not covered under the Family Law Act

Prior to this case lawyers would not necessarily recommend a cohabitation agreement between couples who lived together. After this case, it’s a MUST!

Brian Madigan LL.B., Broker

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