What is Marriage-Like Like? The Irrelevance of Conjugality

Canadian Journal of Family Law, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 269-326, 2001

58 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2010

See all articles by Brenda Cossman

Brenda Cossman

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

Bruce Ryder

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School

Date Written: 2001

Abstract

While the notion of conjugal or marriage-like has become legally ubiquitous in the regulation of non-marital cohabitation in Canada, its meaning remains elusive. A review of the case law and of spousal definitions in income security schemes reveals that the presence or absence of a sexual component to a relationship has become immaterial to, or of declining relevance in, the determination of conjugality. As a result, legal decision-makers have had to grapple with the increasing instability of the distinction between conjugal and non-conjugal relationships.

The question of whether a relationship has a sexual component bears no relation to legitimate state objectives. As a result, the distinction between conjugal and non-conjugal relationships is collapsing as a coherent basis for legal policy. It thus becomes necessary to develop better ways of determining when and how adult personal relationships ought to be recognized in the law. Rather than continuing on the elusive quest for marriage equivalence, it is necessary to reformulate relational definitions to focus more precisely on the kinds of emotional and economic interdependence relevant to the objectives of particular laws.

Keywords: non-marital cohabitation, conjugality, spousal definition, sexual component, interdependence

Suggested Citation

Cossman, Brenda and Ryder, Bruce, What is Marriage-Like Like? The Irrelevance of Conjugality (2001). Canadian Journal of Family Law, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 269-326, 2001. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1661229

Brenda Cossman (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada
416-978-6658 (Phone)

Bruce Ryder

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
Canada

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