82 Year-Old Gambling Husband Loses Almost Everything – Should the Wife Get What’s Left?
The couple had been married for over 60 years in a traditional marriage: The husband, now 82 years old, had always been the breadwinner and had handled the couple’s finances; the wife, now aged 78, had stayed home throughout the marriage to raise their children.
But as they neared their twilight years the wife started to take notice about their finances: she realized that they seemed to be losing net worth over time, rather than gaining it. It was only when the bank started making demands on various loans and mortgages (the existence of which she was unaware), that she learned that they were in financial trouble.
It turned out that – unbeknownst to her – the husband had gambled away almost all their money. In fact two of their adult children had to come up with money in order to save the couple’s home; their other children had to step financially, in as well.
The wife could not persuade the husband to stop; eventually, all they had left was $60,000 in the bank. After significant resistance by the husband, the wife placed the remaining money in a joint account and added the name of one of the couple’s daughters, who would have to be consulted if any funds were withdrawn. This, as the court described it, made the husband “furious”; things went further downhill from there. The court explained:
The [husband] refers to the placing of the remaining funds in the three names as “the swindle”. He says the adult children were all involved in “the swindle”. The [wife] does not dispute the facts of the alleged “swindle” but felt it was necessary to enlist [the daughter] to stand with her against the husband’s expected demands to take the money and lose it.
The court continued:
[The husband] has been angry with [the wife] and their children ever since they began interfering with his control of all things financial. … The parties had two jointly owned properties in Florida that were sold. Because he was angry with his wife and children, [the husband] took the proceeds of $15, 567.08 from the first sale in Florida and either spent, gambled or hid it.
[The husband’s] anger about “the swindle” was exacerbated by the support his children gave their mother when she left him. To address what he perceived as wrongs against him, after the separation, he went out and borrowed $44,000 against a line of credit. This line had been paid off from the proceeds of sale of the [matrimonial] home and was still available for borrowing up to an allowable limit of $44,000. The [wife] did not appreciate that the line could be activated and she would still be a joint signatory and therefore liable. The [husband] either spent, gambled or hid the money. He knew full well that this would rebound to affect his wife. He admits that he did it on purpose and would have borrowed more, even up to $60,000, if he could have.
The court summed up the husband’s approach this way:
The demeanour of the [husband] in the trial was such that the court could only conclude that he was not sorry for the predicament that he had created for his wife, but rather, he was quite pleased with himself.
In these circumstances, the court had no trouble finding that the husband had engaged in improvident depletion of the couple’s funds, pointing out that the husband had squandered the money needed for mortgage payments, basic living, and retirement, and not the couple’s disposable income. It also wasted no time in concluding that the husband’s gambling and hiding of funds was outrageous or “unconscionable”, to the point where there should be an unequal division of property in favour of the wife under the Ontario Family Law Act.
It therefore ordered that the husband’s right in the remaining bank accounts be transferred to the wife, and that the need for his consent to do so should be dispensed with.
For the full text of the decision, see:
Weddel v. Weddel, 2006 CanLII 21589 (ON SC) http://canlii.ca/t/1nptd
At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at www.RussellAlexander.com.