What is a “Spousal Relationship”?
Becoming legally married is not the only way to enter into a spousal relationship in Saskatchewan, although it be may be the most commonly thought of. Our legislation defines the term ‘spouse’ for several purposes. Being recognized as a spouse allows you to make a legal claim such as division of family property or spousal support.
After a two-year period of cohabitation with a partner, there may be entitlement to make a claim for division of family property. This is because you are considered spouses for the purpose of property division, according to The Family Property Act, if you cohabit together in a “spousal relationship” for longer than two years.
The definition of spouse for the purpose of spousal support is slightly more expansive. In addition to the criteria recognized in The Family Property Act set out above, Saskatchewan’s Family Maintenance Act also recognizes those who are in a somewhat permanent relationship and have a child together to be spouses. If you fall into this category, it is possible that a spousal support claim could be made by you or against you.
It is important to note that nothing in our legislation limits how many people can fit this definition for one person. In short: it is possible to have more than one spouse.
What might this look like?
The following is a non-exhaustive list of scenarios in which a person may have more than one spouse:
- You are legally married, but separated, and cohabit with a new partner for two years or longer;
- You are legally married, and are in a relationship of some permanence with someone else you have a child with; or
- You cohabit with more than one person in a romantic relationship concurrently for a period of two years or longer.
Nothing in the Saskatchewan family law legislation limits the number of spouses a person could have at one time. Despite this, there has been no published decision out of Saskatchewan considering this issue. We can look at cases from other jurisdictions where this has been considered. In both of the following cases, Saskatchewan’s legislation would likely allow for a similar outcome:
In the case of Mitchell v Reykdal, 2021 ABQB 301, Mr. Reykdal led a double life. He was legally married to his wife, occasionally returning home, but lived with Ms. Mitchell for 17 years. In this case the Alberta Court found that, although Mr. Reykdal was still legally married to his wife, he and Ms. Mitchell were engaged in an “adult interdependent relationship”. This is very similar to a “spousal relationship” in Saskatchewan. Ultimately, the Court found that Ms. Mitchell was not barred from bringing support and property division claims against Mr. Reykdal, despite the fact that he was married to someone else.
In the matter of Boughton v Widner Estate, 2021 BCSC 325, two people made claims against an estate. Both people claimed to be a spouse of the deceased. Ultimately, both claims were allowed, as the Court found the deceased was in a “marriage like” relationship, despite also being legally married to another person at the time of his death. The Court essentially found the deceased to have two spouses.
Why does this matter?
It is possible to have more than one spouse in the province of Saskatchewan, despite the fact that it is illegal in Canada to become legally married to multiple persons. It is important to understand when a spousal relationship has formed, as certain rights and obligations accompany a spousal relationship. These include the possible entitlement to a share in property, or the making of a claim for spousal support. Having more than one spouse may leave you susceptible to claims being made against you from multiple partners at one time.
If you have questions about family property division, spousal support or the separation process, feel free to reach out to any member of our family law department. We are happy to help.
The information in this article does not constitute legal advice. The law may have changed since this article was first published. You should consult with your lawyer to confirm the current state of the law and obtain advice specific to your situation.