Cohabitation, Female Sacrifice, and Judge-Made Law

32 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2018 Last revised: 31 Jan 2019

See all articles by Robert Leckey

Robert Leckey

McGill University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: June 25, 2018


This paper shares results of a study of judgments applying the common law as adapted to the cohabitation context. Specifically, the Supreme Court of Canada has held that couples who formed a ‘joint family venture’ may need to share the wealth gained during cohabitation. The study compares the couples leading to positive and negative findings of a joint family venture. Positive findings correlate with traditional markers of family and economic integration, such as joint bank accounts and the presence of children. Despite the discourse of family diversity, gendered patterns run across all the couples, with women assuming primary care of children, shouldering domestic labor, and making career sacrifices for the family. In a sign of the limits of judge-made reforms, the doctrine may be harder for some claimants to access than for others, in ways not necessarily tracking commitment and economic integration.

Keywords: Cohabitation, Common Law, Ancillary Relief, Family Law Reform

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Leckey, Robert, Cohabitation, Female Sacrifice, and Judge-Made Law (June 25, 2018). (2019) 41:1 Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 72-91, Available at SSRN:

Robert Leckey (Contact Author)

McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

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