The Book of Life begins with a man and a woman in a garden and it ends with Revelations, Oscar Wilde, 1856 – 1900
The man, a 50 year old bachelor named Gordon. The woman, a 71 year old wealthy widow named Valerie. The revelation – Cinderella fairy tales come true even for middle-aged men.
Gordon met Valerie in 1997. He was unemployed and on welfare. Valerie lived alone on a large property and was in need of some company. Three months after they met, Valerie asked Gordon to move in. She paid for all of their living expenses, clothed Gordon, bought him expensive gifts (including a luxury car) and employed housekeepers and gardeners for their home. They travelled and holidayed extensively all over the world – 60 trips in total.
They lived lavishly.
In 1998, Valerie presented Gordon with a “residency agreement.” The agreement stated that the parties were not spouses, but “friends and companions”; were financially independent of each other; had not contributed to each other’s acquisition of assets; and had no claims to each other’s property.
Fast forward 14 years – like all good things, the relationship came to an end. Gordon was 65. Valerie was 86 and wanted a newer model.
Without Valerie, Gordon could not maintain the lavish lifestyle he had become accustomed to, so he brought a spousal support application. To order Valerie to pay Gordon support, the Court had to determine whether: (a) Gordon was a spouse and (b) if found to be a spouse, whether Gordon was entitled to financial support.
Was Gordon a spouse?
The Court applied the two-pronged test set out by our Court of Appeal (Gostlin v. Kergin,  BCJ No. 365 and Austin v. Goerz, 2007 BCCA 586) to determine that Gordon was in fact a spouse. The test involves:
- A subjective assessment of whether the parties would have felt themselves to be a committed couple in line with a married couple if asked during their relationship; and
- An objective assessment of evidence such as the presence of joint bank accounts and shared vacations.
The Court concluded that the parties were in a marriage-like relationship. This conclusion was based on the following factors: the parties shared meals, Gordon’s financial dependence on Valerie, joint vacations, the parties’ socializing as a couple, love notes and the use of nicknames such as “Boo”, “Angel” and “Darling”. These all signalled that Gordon and Valerie intended to form a psychological and emotional union that qualified as a marriage-like relationship.
Unfortunately for Valerie, the residency agreement could not override Gordon’s right to seek spousal support.
Was Gordon entitled to financial support?
In the words of the Court: “[Gordon was] a kept man throughout his 14 year relationship with [Valerie]” and came to financially rely on her. Without Valerie’s support, Gordon’s annual income dwindled to a mere $25,000 per annum; certainly not sufficient to hire housekeepers and gardeners or purchase luxury items as he had come to enjoy while residing at Casa Valerie. Based on Gordon’s significant decrease in lifestyle, the Court found that he was entitled to financial support from Valerie.
In the end, the Court awarded Gordon lump-sum spousal support in the amount of $157,000.
The revelation for Valerie; even a kept man can have his day in court.
Note: the above story is loosely based on Walker v. Brown, 2013 BCSC 204.