Married man can't be adult interdependent partner to another woman: Alberta Court of Appeal

Man lived 'double life' and deceived two women, but wife was partner under legislation

Married man can't be adult interdependent partner to another woman: Alberta Court of Appeal

Alberta’s Adult Interdependent Relationships Act provides that one cannot have more than one adult interdependent partner at one time, and a married individual living with their spouse cannot become an adult interdependent partner, the Alberta Court of Appeal has ruled.

In Mitchell v. Reykdal, 2022 ABCA 105, the appellant and his then-wife married in 1988 and had three children whom they raised in their matrimonial home. In 2000, the appellant and the respondent started having an affair. The respondent and her daughter moved to the appellant’s city to live in a home that he rented for them. The respondent, who thought that the appellant was separated from his wife, did not pay for rent or other household expenses and generally remained a full-time homemaker.

In 2017, their affair ended. In March 2018, the respondent filed against the appellant an action claiming adult interdependent support and damages relating to property and businesses acquired during their common-law relationship. In April 2018, the ex-wife filed for divorce after she discovered the affair.

The trial judge found that someone could only be “living with” one person at a time for the purposes of the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act. She concluded that the appellant had not been living with his ex-wife under s. 5(2) of the legislation, that the appellant and the respondent had been living with each other in a 17-year relationship of interdependence, and that the respondent was the appellant’s adult interdependent partner.

On appeal, the appellant argued that the trial judge made errors in analyzing adult interdependent partners under the legislation and in assessing the applicability of s. 5(2). The Alberta Court of Appeal allowed his appeal.

The trial judge reasonably concluded that the appellant was living with the respondent and that she would have qualified as his adult interdependent partner, but for the operation of s. 5. of the legislation, the appellate court said. However, the respondent’s entitlement to relief was subject to s. 5.

The trial judge made a palpable and overriding error when she found that the appellant began living with the respondent from the moment he met her and that he stopped living with his wife, even though the married couple had kept a household and raised three children for 30 years, the appellate court held.

The respondent was not the appellant’s adult interdependent partner under the legislation, given that the appellant was “living with” and had interdependent relationships with two women at the same time, the appellate court concluded. Under s. 5(2), in a situation like this, no adult interdependent relationship with the respondent could exist.

The appellate court noted that it was understandable to feel sympathy for the two women, given that the appellant deceived both “in the most selfish and intimate way” for a long time. However, the legislation offered no remedy for this situation.

The appellate court said that it did not need to address the support payments made so far because the action between the parties was ongoing. The lower court could tackle this matter, the appellate court said.

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