Montreal

Quebec spousal support battle heads to Supreme Court

Quebec's justice minister is urging the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a landmark ruling affecting common-law couples.
The Quebec government wants the Supreme Court to overturn a decision that would force common-law spouses to pay alimony after a break up. (CBC)

Quebec's justice minister is urging the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a landmark ruling affecting common-law couples.

The Quebec Court of Appeal decision would force common-law partners to pay spousal support payments after they break up.

The ruling last November in the so-called "Lola versus Eric" case invalidated a section of the Quebec civil code that only guarantees support payments — also known as alimony — for people who are married. The court said the law discriminates against unmarried couples, and gave the province one year to change it.

Quebec Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier said the government believes the ruling was a mistake, and is appealing it.

"Respect for the choice, freedom of choice for the people, [those were] the main objectives of the decision," he said. "It is not a discriminatory measure against one spouse or the other."

The ruling last November involved a Quebec woman known as Lola who had been seeking a $50-million lump-sum payment as well as $56,000 a month from her former spouse — a well-known Quebec business tycoon known in the case as Eric.

Lola was 17 when she met the then 32-year-old entrepreneur. They were together for 10 years and had three children together but never married.

Lola's former lawyer, Anne-France Goldwater, said common-law couples deserve the same rights as married couples.

"The law is ignoring them," she said. "And it is just in Quebec that it is like that."

The justice minister has submitted a memorandum for the high court to consider.

More than a million Quebecers live together instead of marrying, and about 60 per cent of Quebec children are born to unmarried couples.

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