Whether a relationship is marriage-like also typically depends on more than just their intentions

Whether a relationship is marriage-like also typically depends on more than just their intentions

This is a more difficult question, because we’re talking about people’s intentions and beliefs, and not simply where they keep their socks and underwear. Objective evidence of the parties’ lifestyle and interactions provides direct guidance on the question of whether the relationship is marriage-like.

This question comes up often enough that there are some really good cases that talk about what a “marriage-like relationship” involves. L.T.F. v R.B.F, 2023 BCSC 834, is a recent case where the court summarizes leading cases and various factors to bear in mind when trying to determine the starting date of a marriage-like relationship.

Some individuals have simply given no thought as to how their relationship would operate

In a 1998 case called Takacs v Gallo, our Court of Appeal said that you can sometimes tell whether a relationship is marriage-like or not by looking at these factors:

Relationships outside marriage are much more difficult to ascertain

Did the parties live under the same roof? What were the sleeping arrangements? Did anyone else occupy or share the available accommodation?

  • Sexual and personal behaviour:

Did the parties have sexual relations? If not, why not? Did they maintain an attitude of fidelity to each other? What were their feelings towards each other? Did they communicate on a personal level? Did they eat their meals together? What, if anything, did they do to assist each other with problems or during illness? Did they buy gifts for each other on special occasions?

  • Household chores:

What was the conduct and habit of the parties in relation to the preparation of meals, washing and mending clothes, shopping, household maintenance , and other domestic services?

  • Social:

Did they participate together or separately in neighbourhood and community activities? What was the relationship and conduct of each of them toward members of their respective families and how did such families behave towards the parties? What was the attitude and conduct of the community toward each of them and as a couple?

  • Economic support:

What were the financial arrangements between the parties regarding the provision of or contribution toward the necessaries of life? What were the arrangements concerning the acquisition and ownership of property? Was there any special financial arrangement between them that both agreed would be a determinant of their overall relationship?

  • Children:

In a nutshell, where people don’t agree whether their relationship is “marriage-like,” the court will look at how the people involved in the relationship presented themselves to their family and friends, how they ran their household and how they arranged their finances. Did they present themselves as a family unit? Did they conduct their personal affairs as a family unit? Did they have shared bank accounts? Did they go to parties together? Were they sexually exclusive? Did they have or plan on having children?

The judge in a 2003 case from the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench, Yakiwchuk v Oaks, talked about the difficulty of determining what is and what is not a “marriage-like” relationship by looking at how varied marriages themselves can be:

“Spousal relationships are many and varied. Individuals in spousal relationships, whether they are married or not, structure their relationships differently. In some relationships there is a complete blending of finances and property – in others, spouses keep their property and finances totally separate and in still others one spouse may totally control those aspects of the relationship with the other spouse having little or no knowledge or input. For some couples, sexual relations are very important – for others, that aspect may take a back seat to companionship. Some spouses do not share the same bed. There may be a variety of indiancupid dating site review reasons for this such as health or personal choice. Some people are affectionate and demonstrative. They show their feelings for their ‘spouse’ by holding hands, touching and kissing in public. Other individuals are not demonstrative and do not engage in public displays of affection. Some ‘spouses’ do everything together – others do nothing together. Some ‘spouses’ vacation together and some spend their holidays apart. Some ‘spouses’ have children – others do not. It is this variation in the way human beings structure their relationships that make the determination of when a ‘spousal relationship’ exists difficult to determine. With married couples, the relationship is easy to establish. The marriage ceremony is a public declaration of their commitment and intent. Rarely is there any type of ‘public’ declaration of intent. Often people begin cohabiting with little forethought or planning. Their motivation is often nothing more than wanting to ‘be together’. Some individuals have chosen to enter relationships outside marriage because they did not want the legal obligations imposed by that status. Often the date when the cohabitation actually began is blurred because people ‘ease into’ situations, spending more and more time together. Agreements between people verifying when their relationship began and how it will operate often do not exist.”

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