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MARRIAGE - What constitutes common-law relationship - Property and benefits rights

Thursday, October 31, 2019 @ 8:24 AM  


Lexis Advance® Quicklaw®
Appeal by the husband from a decision dismissing his application for retroactive spousal support, unjust enrichment and consequent constructive trust in 12 properties, a declaration that there was a joint family venture in the accumulated value of the properties, and an order for the return of his shares in an Indigenous staffing company. The parties lived together from the summer of 2011 to September 2012. They had no children together, were never married and referred to themselves as single on their tax returns. They largely kept separate bank accounts. The respondent bought, renovated, and either rented or sold the properties. The appellant, or his companies, did much of the renovation work. The respondent testified that she paid the respondent $2,192,598 between 2006 and 2012 for the work. The appellant admitted to receiving $1,625,063 over the six-year period but claimed he was entitled to more.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. There was ample evidence to support the judge’s conclusion that the appellant failed to prove that he and the respondent were in a spousal or common-law relationship for three years. The appellant failed to prove his claim for unjust enrichment as he was unable to adduce evidence to satisfy the court that he was not paid for work that he did or that the respondent was unjustly enriched at his expense. The respondent signed all the agreements of purchase and sale, paid the down payment, and arranged mortgage financing in her name alone. There was no evidence that at any time prior to their breakup, the appellant asserted any claim to be paid for work done either by virtue of a joint venture, unjust enrichment, or otherwise. While a spousal relationship was not a legal prerequisite to finding a joint family venture, there was ample evidence to justify the application judge’s conclusion that there was no joint family venture in these circumstances. At most, there was some financial overlap but no economic integration of the sort that indicated a joint family venture. There was evidence upon which the application judge could reasonably conclude the shares in the staffing company were not fraudulently transferred. The application judge carefully reviewed the evidence and the law on the issues before her. She did not fail to come to grips with the issues and deal with them independently and impartially.

Derakhshan v. Narula, [2019] O.J. No. 4768, Ontario Court of Appeal, D.H. Doherty, A.L. Harvison Young and J.A. Thorburn JJ.A., September 23, 2019. Digest No. TLD-October282019010