Legal Jurisdiction Where a Common Law Couple Has Lived in Toronto

May 10th, 2014 by Dan Stone

This blog is written by Michelle Stephenson a summer law student at DSF.

A recent Ontario Court of Appeal decision dealt with a situation relevant to many family law clients. Specifically, it dealt with what legal jurisdiction applies when a couple has split their time between two places, in this case Florida and Ontario.

In Knowles v. Lindstrom, a man and woman had lived together for 10 years, first in Florida and then Ontario. When they separated, the woman brought a motion in Ontario for spousal support and a declaration that, because of unjust enrichment, she was a beneficial owner of two Muskoka properties.

Her ex-partner argued that the claims should take place in Florida, and if not, then Florida law should apply, not Ontario law. A significant difference was that under Florida law, the common-law wife would have no claim for spousal support in this case.

In this case, the court found that Ontario jurisdiction was appropriate. There was a “real and substantial connection” between the wife’s claims and Ontario. This was found because the couple had lived in Ontario as much as in Florida, were living in Ontario at the time of their separation, and the properties in question were located in Ontario. They had begun their relationship in Florida and spent the first five years there, before moving to Ontario and living there for the next five years.

Additionally, it was found that Ontario law could apply to the claims. The property claim clearly occurred in Ontario, and as for the spousal support, because the couple had lived in Ontario for the second half of their relationship, there was no reason why the law from another jurisdiction should be used.

While this case does not indicate any change in the basic rules of jurisdiction, it deals with a common situation for couples today. In the case of common-law couples it might be reassuring to know that Ontario law, which allows for the possibility of spousal support, may apply even where a large part of the relationship took place in another country.

Link to full decision

For more information regarding this or any other Family Law related topic, please contact our Family Law group.


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