Unjustified Enrichment Between De Facto Spouses: A Renewal of the Law, or History Being Re-Written?

This article will take a look at the evolution of the jurisprudence on unjustified enrichment as a viable recourse for de facto couples, who are otherwise completely deprived of any recourse to resolve the consequences of the economic inter-dependency that may have grown during their unions, to the detriment of one of the partners at the time of relationship breakdown.

Conjugally, “freedom of choice” is a freedom generally experienced at the time of relationship breakdown as favourable for the de facto partner who has been enriched, and is generally experienced as a disaster for the de facto partner who has been economically impoverished. Given the perpetuation of systemic inequalities between men and women in society at large – as in the recent statistical analysis that in the province of Québec, women on average earn 70 cents for every dollar earned by men, for the same work – and given the choices that women tend to make favouring caretaking responsibilities over career advancement, it is no surprise that the grand majority of successful claims for unjust enrichment are presented by women. After all, it is women in general who suffer the most economically at the end of a de facto union.