Determining when a marriage begins is an easy task. However, in marriage-like relationships the water can get muddy. The determination of the commencement of such a relationship is important in provinces that have either property or support rights conferred to individuals in these types of relationships. In Fuller v. Matthews the British Columbia Supreme Court outlined the indicia of a marriage-like relationship, which included:
- An exclusive intimate relationship;
- Do the parties spend time outside of work together and living together as a couple;
- Placing of furniture owned by one party into the home of the other party along with other personal belongings;
- Do the parties plan finances together;
- Do the parties spend vacations, holidays and family events together with other members of each other’s family;
- Do the parties share responsibilities related to the child/children of the other party;
- Do the parties make plans for the future together; and
- Have the parties contributed to a joint family venture (i.e. the renovation of a home or a garden).
In the recent decision of Pearson v. Graham, the British Columbia Supreme Court dealt with a matter where the parties had commenced their relationship in 2002 and ended the relationship in 2012 when both parties were nearing 60 years of age. The court was tasked with determining when the marriage-like relationship commenced. The court applied the factors from Fuller and determined that the marriage-like relationship started in 2005. Central to the court’s determination was that Ms. Graham continued to pay rent at another home in 2003 whilst she was with Mr. Pearson. Furthermore, the parties never “mixed” finances in the early years of the relationship and it was only later, in 2005, that Mr. Pearson provided financial assistance to Ms. Graham.