Antiques, Jewelry, Coins and Heirlooms: Proving They Exist For Equalization
In a Blog recently, we discussed the decision in Mahtani v. Mistry where the court considered a husband’s allegation that his wife had secretly removed $100,000 in jewelry from a joint safety deposit box around the time they separated. The husband wanted the court to acknowledge the existence of the jewelry, and to account for it when calculating the wife’s Net Family Property.
Situations like that are certainly not new. Divorcing couples often have to establish to the court’s satisfaction not only the existence of various household items, but also their value at the time of separation. But this can prove to be more difficult than it sounds; it sometimes leaves the court with little choice but to essentially ignore or omit the contentious items altogether.
In Qaraan v. Qaraan, the wife accused the husband of absconding with two gold bracelets that were stored in a jointly-owned safety deposit box. The wife testified that the last time she saw them, before leaving for the country of Jordan on the separation date, they were in the safety deposit box. She did not take them with her to Jordan, and there was also a court-imposed non-depletion order restraining the husband from depleting any of their assets for a certain time period. However, when the wife was back in Canada and able to open the safety deposit box again, her jewelry was gone. She did not know their monetary value.
The husband claimed that just before the wife left for Jordan, he went with her to the bank and she retrieved the jewelry herself.
The court concluded that since there was no credible evidence to prove the value of the jewelry in question, it became unnecessary to try to make findings of fact as to who may have taken it. When it came time to valuing the spouses’ Net Family Property, it was open to the court to simply omit the missing gold bracelets altogether. Which is what the court did.
Similarly in Wilson v. Wilson, the husband claimed that he and the wife owned a coin collection, consisting of Silver American dollars valued at $10,500, and a Canadian coin collection worth $3,000. The wife countered by saying that the coin collection never existed.
Once again, the court noted that since the husband did not provide any documentary evidence that proved the existence of the coins and their value, the court was free to conclude that the coins did not exist, and to assign in a value of zero for the purposes of the equalization exercise.
The lesson to be learned from cases like this, is that if spouses want to prove the existence and value of these kinds of esoteric household assets, heirlooms or collections, they need to marshal their documentation and evidence accordingly. Otherwise your former spouse’s grandmother’s priceless heirloom tea-cozy collection might get left out of the equalization “mix”.
For the full text of the decision, see:
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 RussellAlexander.com