MARRIAGE – De facto union – Property rights and benefits

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Appeal and cross-appeal by de facto spouses against the judgment of first instance concerning maintenance and the division of property. The parties began to cohabit in 1996 in a house owned by the wife. The husband had his own commercial diving business, SFDL. He also owned 50 percent of the shares of SFPI and SFTI and 40 percent of SFHI. SFPI and SFTI were the source of dividend income for him in 2013, 2015 and 2016. At the time of separation, the wife’s only source of income was her annual salary of $ 52,000 from SFDL. The husband helped with the capital improvements and operating costs associated with the house. In 2006, the husband bought a house which was placed on behalf of both parties. The parties resided in this house from 2006 until the separation in 2014. The husband paid 100 percent of the costs associated with this property. The trial judge found that the wife was entitled to partner support on a non-compensatory basis and awarded her $ 8,285 per month for 17 years. He found that she had established a common law claim on the house and its condominium contents and awarded him $ 170,222. He denied the husband’s claim to the wife’s property and demanded that he transfer two of the vehicles to her and pay her an additional $ 15,000.

DECISION: Appeal and cross-appeal allowed in part. The trial judge did not err in concluding that the parties were partners under the Family Law Act by using the functional equivalence test or by finding that the wife was entitled to non-compensatory support. The judge’s conclusion that her role in the relationship did not increase the husband’s income was supported by her review of the evidence and was entitled to deference. The principles of trust and unjust enrichment were available to determine contestation of ownership or an interest in both properties. Although the judge mischaracterized the presumption of advancement applicable and the burden of proof for the rebuttal, the judge’s conclusion was supported by the evidence. When the joint property was purchased, the parties had been together for 10 years in a marriage-like relationship. The presumption of a resulting trust in favor of the husband was successfully rebutted by the wife. There was evidence supporting the conclusion that the husband’s actual intention to put the wife’s name on the deed was a half-interest gift. Although the husband did not establish an error in the judge’s conclusion that the husband intended to donate the wife a half interest in the house and its contents, he did err by referring to the value of half of the net worth instead of the total net worth. The wife’s half interest assessment has been changed to $ 336,714. The trial judge erred in not awarding the husband monetary compensation for his contribution to the wife’s property. There were mutual efforts and economic integration reflected in the way the property was maintained and improved both while the parties lived there and after they left it. Since the evidence did not support the intention to donate, the husband established that there was no legal reason to refuse his recovery. He received $ 42,739 for his contributions. The amount of partner support has been changed to $ 5,000 per month for a period of 10 years. The aid granted far exceeded his needs. The trial judge also erred in including her partner’s income in her income. The evidence supported the judge’s findings that the husband gave the wife a vehicle as a late birthday present and allowed the recording to expire, effectively depriving her of this property. It was appropriate that he transferred the ownership of this vehicle to the wife. The wife had to reimburse SFDL for the cost she had paid for the purchase of the other vehicle when the lease expired. She was not entitled to compensation for the deprivation of use of this vehicle.

Hynes vs. Snook, [2021] NJ No. 139, Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal, BG Welsh, WH Goodridge and GD Butler JJ., May 25, 2021. Reports No. TLD-June282021002


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