After Nine Years, Charlize Theron and Stuart Townsend Split

Oscar-winning star, Charlize Theron reportedly split from actor Stuart Townsend over the Christmas holiday. The couple are not married and have no children, but they had a relationship for nine years. Theron is known for her performance in films like "Monster" where she has won an Academy Award for best actress. According to Hollywood Reporter's 2006 list of highest paid actors in Hollywood, Theron reportedly earned $10,000,000.00 for two of her films, North Country and Aeon Flux. Townsend is known for his films like "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". However, when comparing these two prominent celebrities, Theron seems to have more of the limelight, so to speak.

Many fans may be curious as to not only who the new mystery man is in Theron's life, but what legal implications this common law couple would face had they lived in Ontario.

Properties from Relationship

In Theron and Townsend's case, there are two known homes of the relationship. After the split up, Theron is said to be residing in Hollywood Hills and Townsend is living in the couple's Malibu beach home. In common law separations, the person(s) on title is important for determining who has ownership and possessory rights to the home.

If both parties jointly are on title to the properties, they will divide their interests accordingly. However, if one partner is the only one on title to the home(s) the couple resided in, the partner on title would be able to claim a sole interest in the home (e.g. not have to divide the value of the home with their partner) and the owner partner may also ask the other partner to leave the home. Unfortunately, the non-owner partner would have to vacate the home.

Although in Ontario there is no legal recourse for common law partners to claim possessory rights in the home, the non-owner partner can claim an interest in the home that both parties resided in. The non-owner partner would make a trust claim. For instance, the non-owner partner could claim a constructive trust. This type of trust is used as a remedy for the non-owning partner who feels that they have contributed financially or through their labour towards the home and have not derived any benefit. The non-owner partner is essentially seeking compensation for their contribution either through damages or an interest in the home. Through a constructive trust, the non-owner partner has to show that their partner is being unjustly enriched through the fruits of the non-owner's labour or funds.

The following is a three part test that has to be met in order to show unjust enrichment:

  1. One partner has been enriched (e.g. the owner partner);
  2. There is a corresponding deprivation to the other partner (e.g. non-owner partner); and
  3. There is no legal reason for such enrichment.

In Theron and Townsend's case, the non-owner partner would have to show that they have contributed to the home and deserve compensation via a trust claim. Examples of meaningful contributions include: repairing parts of the home, decorating or renovating the home, or financially contributing to the mortgage or maintenance of the home.

Spousal Support

Given that both actors are financially well-off, a spousal support claim would depend on whether one partner can show a need for spousal support. Some of the factors to be considered for a court to grant spousal support include: the length of the relationship, the need to compensate a partner for the economic hardship they endured from the relationship, to name a few. Based on both parties' net worth, and their ability to earn an income, it is improbable that either can establish a need for spousal support. The Court will encourage a "clean-break" between the parties if they are financially self-sufficient, as in this case. Theron purportedly is no longer wearing her commitment ring that Townsend had given her, exemplifying Theron's personal effort of a "clean-break".

In Theron and Townsend's case, there is no equalization of property to consider as they were not married. More information on equalization can be found here.

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