On January 18, judges of the Supreme Court of Canada will start hearing arguments from the Attorney General of Quebec and lawyers for Eric and Lola (not their real names) on the question of support payments for common-law couples.
Since decisions of the Supreme Court are final, this is the last chance for lawyers for both sides to convince the highest court in the country of their point of view.
After hearing the arguments, the Court will take time to analyze the case. It will take about six months to get a decision.
The Position of the Quebec Government in the Lola Case
The case was taken to the Supreme Court of Canada by the government of Quebec, represented by its Attorney General.
When someone challenges a law, the Attorney General is notified and can take part in the process. In the Lola case, the Quebec law at stake says that common-law couples cannot claim support from their ex-partners. ("Common-law" means not married or in a civil union.) The case will test whether this rule discriminates against common-law couples. If it does, the rule could be declared not valid.
Lola and Eric: What Happened in the Quebec Courts
The Lola case has been in the headlines for the past few years because Lola was claiming support payments for herself from her former common-law partner. In Quebec, only married or civil-union couples can claim support for themselves from a former partner.
In July 2009, the Superior Court of Quebec decided that this rule was valid and did not discriminate. The case then went to a higher court, the Quebec Court of Appeal.
In November 2010, the Court of Appeal decided that the rule did discriminate against common-law couples. This court gave the government one year to change the rule.
Now the Supreme Court judges must decide: not having the right to claim support from a common-law partner - is this discriminatory?