Montreal

Montreal woman seeks alimony rights for common-law spouses

A Montreal woman who had three children with a wealthy Montreal businessman but never married him has launched a constitutional challenge asserting what she says are her rights as a common-law spouse.

Challenges Quebec law, wants former partner to pay her $56,000 a month

A Montreal woman who had three children with a wealthy Montreal businessman but never married him has launched a constitutional challenge asserting what she says are her rights as a common-law spouse.

The woman appeared in Quebec Superior Court on Monday in Montreal asking that her former partner of 10 years pay her alimony even though Quebec's legal system only mandates spousal payments for couples who have been legally married.

The woman is challenging that law and asking for a monthly payment of $56,000 plus a $50 million lump sum from her former partner.

Their identities are protected by the court, as is commonly the case in family law cases when children are involved.

Kids, not spouses, get support after breakup in Quebec

On Monday, the woman testified in court about how she met the man overseas when she was quite young. She said he wooed her to come to Canada, a decision she now said was naïve.

Anne-France Goldwater, the woman's lawyer, said the case boils down to a question of dignity.

Quebec law stipulates that only children can benefit from support payments after the break-up of a common-law couple. The children's father already pays regular child support.

According to Statistics Canada, 35 per cent of couples in Quebec are unmarried, and 60 per cent of children are born out of wedlock.

Goldwater said those numbers show the Quebec law is behind the times.

She said the payments her client is asking the court to approve would help the woman and her children maintain the lifestyle they have become accustomed to.

"What did they [the children] do wrong?" Goldwater said outside the court. "Are they to be punished for the sins of their parents? That makes no sense in the modern world."

Many unmarried couples are unaware of rights

Family lawyer Sylvie Shirm said many unmarried couples do not realize they have fewer rights than couples who have exchanged vows.

Shirm, who was in court Monday to observe the case, said Quebec is the only province that hasn't adopted legislation on the issue.

"What we're seeing is that people don't always realize or know what is involved when they're living together," said Shirm. "People think they're protected, but they're not."

A group representing single-parent and reconstituted families has also received intervener status in the case.

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