Michele Vanasse v. David Seguin

(Ontario) (Civil) (By Leave)




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Family law - Common law spouses - Division of assets - Unjust enrichment - Monetary award - Whether the Court of Appeal erred in law by insisting on a strict, “value received” approach on the facts of this case to quantify a monetary award for unjust enrichment - Whether the Court of Appeal erred in finding that the trial judge failed to consider relevant evidence of the Respondent’s contribution to the relationship.

Seguin and Vanasse began living in a common law relationship in 1994 and separated in 2005. Before they had children, from approximately 1994 to 1997, both parties were busy with their respective careers. The parties lived in a home owned by Seguin and they kept their finances separate. In 1997, Seguin’s company moved to Nova Scotia. Seguin moved to Halifax first and Vanasse followed him there later. The company grew very quickly and as President and CEO, Seguin worked long hours, seven days a week. He also travelled on company business two to three weeks a month. When Vanasse arrived, he cut down his hours and travelled less frequently but this caused friction at work. After their first child was born, Vanasse stayed home full-time. Seguin resigned his position as CEO in order to spend more time with his family but Vanasse was unhappy in Halifax and after a year, the family moved back to Ottawa. Seguin bought a home for the family in Kanata in their joint names. In September 2000, Seguin’s company was bought out by a U.S. company. Seguin received $11 million for his shares and he retired. Prior to this time, Vanasse had devoted herself full-time to running the household and raising the children. From September 2000 to March 2005, both parents were at home and although Seguin had a home office, he spent more time with the children. When the parties separated in 2005, Vanasse remained in their home with the children. The parties have joint custody. Vanasse brought an action claiming child support, spousal support, and compensation for unjust enrichment. Vanasse was awarded child support and spousal support. She also received a monetary award for unjust enrichment. This award was set aside by the court of appeal and a new trial was ordered to calculate the monetary award based on the “value received” by Seguin at Vanasse’s expense.

Lower Court Rulings

July 4, 2008
Ontario Superior Court of Justice

Vanasse awarded 50% of the net increase in Seguin's assets based on an average over the 12 year relationship then reduced to the three and a half period of enrichment for a total of $996,500, plus child and spousal support
July 29, 2009
Court of Appeal for Ontario

C49155, 2009 ONCA 595
Appeal from monetary award allowed; matter remitted for new trial