Sunday, 24 May 2009

Family Court: "agreement" not enough to say that husband owned property

In the recent Family Court case of Webb and French, the court had to deal with a "coulda, shoulda, woulda" type case. These are the types of cases where something:
  • could have happened to make the parties richer,
  • should have happened,
  • and if only but for intervening events, would have happened-

but in fact the passage of events meant that they never happened.

The wife alleged that there was an agreement between the husband and his father before the father's death, whereby the father stated that the motel would be sold and the proceeds split, with the husband to receive a fair amount.

The difficulties for the wife, as identified by Justice Moore, were:
  • there was scarce documentation- the only document that might have verified an "agreement" was an email.
  • the husband's father died- and his shares in the family entities passed to the husband's mother.
  • nothing suggested that the husband's mother knew anything of the agreement
  • the husband's interest in the motel, aside from running it at a pittance, was as a shareholder in a lessee company.
  • the motel had in recent years run at a loss. Its real value was in the land holding.
  • the husband's mother had lent money to the lessee company and the family company (which she owned) to keep both afloat.
  • the lessee company was liquidated. There was nothing that suggested that this was untoward.
  • a nil value was attributed to the shares previously held by the husband.

Not surprisingly, the wife was unsuccessful on this point.

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