A wealthy Toronto businessman is on the hook to pay his ex-girlfriend more than $50,000 a month for the next 10 years after a court determined they were long-time spouses despite never being married and never living together.
Michael Latner, a reported multi-millionaire, was in a relationship with List Climans for 14 years. Latner was a divorced father of three while Climans was a separated mother of two when they began their romantic relationship in October 2001, the National Post reported. Throughout their 14-year relationship, the couple lived in separate homes, but would regularly stay over at each other’s houses. They also went on vacation together, and Latner showered Climans with expensive gifts, including a 7.5-carat diamond ring and other jewelry. He also gave Climans “thousands of dollars each month, a credit card, [and] paid off her mortgage,” the Post reported. Climans reportedly quit her job and would sleep at Latner’s house often.
The two had their own bank accounts and never bought property together, nor did they have any children together.
Latner proposed to Climans several times—and she accepted. They were never married due to his request that she sign a marriage contract, which she refused.
When the relationship ended in May 2015, Climans went to court to be recognized as Latner’s spouse and demand he pay her spousal support. Latner, according to the Post, argued that Climans had been his “travel companion and girlfriend, nothing more.” He argued they were never spouses, and he didn’t owe her any support.
After an eight-day trial, Superior Court Justice Sharon Shore ruled that Latner and Climans were, in fact, long-time spouses and that Latner should pay Climans $53,077 a month indefinitely. Shore ruled that even though the couple maintained separate homes, they spent part of the summer together at Latner’s cottage and stayed together in Florida for winter vacations. That was enough to determine cohabitation.
As the Post reported, under “Ontario law, an unmarried couple are considered common-law spouses if they have cohabited — lived together in a conjugal relationship — continuously for at least three years. But that doesn’t necessarily mean living in the same home, the court found.”
Latner appealed the decision, but it was upheld, with one change: He would only have to pay Climans $53,077 a month for the next 10 years.
“Lack of a shared residence is not determinative of the issue of cohabitation,” the Appeal Court ruled, according to the Post. “There are many cases in which courts have found cohabitation where the parties stayed together only intermittently.”
The higher court used Shore’s analysis and concluded she was correct that the couple was considered to have cohabitated even though they weren’t married, didn’t own a home together, and only stayed with each other for part of the year. The Appeal Court did determine that Shore erred when she determined that the couple met the threshold for indefinite spousal support, ruling that the couple didn’t start this “cohabitation” as early in the relationship as Shore ruled.