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Following a separation a couple might avoid a costly trial by coming to agreement on a number of items, possibly negating the need for a trial at all. However, sometimes an agreement might ultimately lead to further confusion or litigation. Such was the case in an decision recently issued by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia.

The agreement and the home

The parties agreed to end their marriage in 2014 after nearly 40 years together. The couple had done well financially, having retired in their mid-40s after making successful investments.

Following their separation, the parties entered into a letter of intent agreement to split their assets. One of the terms of the agreement was that the husband agreed to transfer the matrimonial home to the wife. The home, which had originally been owned by the husband and his mother was acquired through a right of survivorship upon her death.

The husband met his obligation to transfer the home to his wife, but when it came time to divide their property, the husband  argued the value of the home should be deducted from whatever he owed the wife since he inherited the home via a joint tenancy with his mother.

At trial and appeal

The trial judge made two conclusions that were looked at on appeal. The first was that the wife had made financial contributions to the home. The second was that since the husband gave the home to the wife, his right to claim it outside of the division of property was surrendered. Additionally, the trial judge found (in error) that the couple had contributed equally towards the purchase of the home in the first place. In actuality, the husband provided the money for the initial purchase of the home.

On appeal, the court found that if the mother had gifted the right of survivorship of the home to the husband, it would qualify as excluded property. The trial judge had concluded that the couple each contributed to the purchase, but it was discovered this was not the case. The court determined this issue needed to be determined at trial. Additionally, the court found the trial judge’s decision about the husband surrendering his right to exclude the property by gifting it to be made in error. The court found that the transfer of the house was done as a contractual obligation after the couple were separated and not as a gift.

The court did not issue its own ruling on the issues. Instead, it ordered the matter to return to court for a new trial, this time with the hope that the trial judge would not make similar errors in their analysis.

In addition to being a significant asset, the matrimonial home is usually associated with deep emotional ties.  At Gelman & Associates, we will provide compassionate, forward-thinking guidance to our clients while aggressively pursuing their legal interests. Call us at (844) 769-0737 or 1-844-769-0737 or contact us online.

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