Quebec's ultra-rich ex-couple heading to Supreme Court
Published Thursday, March 24, 2011 12:52PM EDT
The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the case of Lola and Eric -- the Quebec multi-millionaire and his former common-law wife.
The couple cannot be identified because of Family Court regulations.
Lola is challenging the constitutionality of Quebec laws that fail to recognize common-law couples.
Her lawyers argued successfully in Quebec's Court of Appeal that Lola is entitled to alimony payments identical to those she would be allowed if she had been legally wed to her partner.
That ruling, if it stands, overturns part of Quebec's Civil Code and brings it into line with common law in the rest of the country.
One family law expert, Sylvie Schirm, says that recent decisions by the SCOC imply that Quebec couples should be under the same regime.
"They are bringing people that are unmarried much closer to married couples at this point in time," said Schirm.
When the case is heard, "there's a chance that Lola will win in Supreme court."
The Quebec government appealed the Court of Appeal ruling to the SCOC, saying the Civil code offers couples a clear choice.
However Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier said he would wait to comment on the issue until after lawyers had the chance to make their arguments.
"I think that everybody should be happy that before we take any decision we know all the parameters, that is what the Supreme court will decide," said Fournier.
One-third of all couples in Quebec, more than one million people, live in common-law relationships which are not recognized by the Civil code.
This means that parents are required to make child-support payments should they split up, but that partners have no rights to any alimony.
In much of Canada, common-law partners have full alimony and property rights identical to married couples.
Lola and Eric met in her native South America when she was a teenager.
They lived together for seven years and had three children together before splitting up in 2001.
A 2006 court ruling forced Eric to pay $34,000 each month as child support, and to provide a car, chauffeur, cook, and two nannies in order that the children could live in the manner to which they had become accustomed.
Lola was seeking an additional $56,000 for herself, a share of the multi-million-dollar family estate, and a lump sum of $50 million.