Posts Tagged ‘property division’

Lana Li
Tuesday, February 16th, 2016    Posted by Lana Li (posts)

As the baby boomer generation see their children move out of the house and settle into their careers and family, some are now re-examining their marriages or long term relationships and considering what they want to do, and with whom, during their retirement years.  According to Statistics Canada (Marital Status Overview: 2011), there were a greater number of divorced and separated couples over the age of 65 in 2011 than in 2006.  A Times article in October 2014 provides that 1 in 4 divorces in the United States are experienced by those over the age of 50 and 1 in 10 divorces are experienced by those over the age of 65.  Given the aging population, it will not be surprising that these statistics are on the rise.

The social and financial impact of “grey” divorces, a phrase coined to refer to the demographic trend of rising divorce rates for older (grey-haired) couples in long term relationships, can be significant.  While the mortgage on the family home may well be paid off by then, the cost of maintaining two households, even if by modest standards, will likely be higher than for one household, coupled with reduced income in retirement years.  One party may require additional homemaker support, assisted living, or a care facility if there are significant health issues, including dementia or Alzheimer’s.  For some couples, there will be less time to rebuild assets given that one or both may be nearing the end of his or her working life.  The cost of health care coverage may be significant if one party loses coverage upon separation or divorce, previously available through the other spouse’s benefits plan.  Pension splitting will need to be considered.  Family businesses may need to be split up and tax considerations will need to be considered.  If there are prior marriages or relationships, competing interests of all of the children or prior spouses may need to be considered.  Life insurance and beneficiary designations must be re-examined.

From the courts’ perspective, it is unlikely that a court will “force” one party to work beyond his or her age of retirement, especially if there are health issues, but it will examine closely one party’s decision to retire early and the reasons for it. Where a party continues to work after the age of 65, a court may consider that he or she will not retire, absent any health or other reasons for not working and the court may require that party to pay, or continue to pay, spousal support based on that expected working income.  A court will only allow “double dipping” (paying spousal support to a spouse from that part of pension income that has already been equalized) in limited circumstances.[1]  Where one spouse’s needs due to dementia can be determined with some mathematical certainty, spousal support can be ordered and such spousal support can be binding upon the payor’s estate.[2]  In some circumstances, spousal support will be refused if the payor requires all of his or her income to pay for care facility costs, the marriage was short, and the division of assets would adequately compensate the other spouse.[3]   Thus, even if there is need of the other spouse, there might not be sufficient income available to pay after the payor’s needs are taken into account.

At the end of the day, those baby boomers who are facing divorce or dissolution of their relationship should obtain legal and financial advice to assist them in navigating these challenging issues.

[1] Boston v Boston, 2001 SCC 43

[2] S.(E.R.) v S(H.C.), 1998 CanLII 4619

[3] W.C.L. v A.J.L, 2003 BCSC 971


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Posted by Lana Li (posts) | Filed under Litigation and ADR | ....
Lana Li
Friday, April 1st, 2011    Posted by Lana Li (posts)

In companion rulings made February 18, 2011, the Supreme Court of Canada clarified the law relating to property division resulting from the breakdown of a common law relationship: Kerr v Baranow; Vanasse v Séguin, 2011 SCC 10.

The Court first noted that common law partners’ rights were traditionally based on the principles of resulting trust and unjust enrichment.

Under the traditional analysis, a resulting trust can arise in two situations: the gratuitous transfer of property from one partner to the other, or a couple’s joint contribution to the acquisition of property, where title has been registered in the name of only one of them. An unjust enrichment claimant must traditionally establish three distinct elements: an enrichment, a corresponding deprivation, and the absence of a juristic reason for the enrichment.

The Supreme Court rejected common past practice where courts have required the claiming partner to show a direct connection between his or her own financial or other efforts and the acquisition of the property that came to be in the other’s name. It was held that this “fee-for-service” calculation fails to reflect the reality of the lives of many domestic partners and is inconsistent with the inherent flexibility of unjust enrichment and with the courts’ approach to equitable remedies.

The court substituted a more “common sense” analysis for this rigid approach to quantifying compensation, stating at para. 69: “[T]he legal consequences of the breakdown of a domestic relationship should reflect realistically the way people live their lives. It should not impose on them the need to engage in an artificial balance sheet approach which does not reflect the true nature of the relationship”.

The courts should, however, continue to consider if a share of the property should be awarded (using the principle of constructive trust) or whether a monetary award is sufficient. Where a monetary award is to be made, the courts’ “common sense” analysis now requires a consideration of whether or not there was a “joint family venture” to which both partners contributed.
. When examining whether a relationship is a “joint family venture”, the courts are to review the evidence under four broad headings: mutual effort; economic integration; actual intent; and priority of the family. Once the “joint family venture” is established, the courts can then consider the net wealth that has accumulated proportionate to the claimant’s contributions. Thus, there must be a link between contributions and the accumulation of wealth.

In the Kerr case, the plaintiff was unsuccessful in establishing an entitlement to one-half of the wealth accumulated during the relationship. She was not able to show that the defendant had been unjustly enriched at her expense, that their relationship constituted a joint family venture, and that her contributions were linked to the generation of wealth during the relationship.” The parties kept their financial affairs separate.

In the Vanesse case, however, the couple had been working collaboratively towards common goals. They jointly raised children together and acquired wealth together. The court took into account, among other things, their economic integration evinced by a joint bank account and by the property being jointly registered in their names.

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Posted by Lana Li (posts) | Filed under Other | ....