Vancouver Mandarin Cantonese Chinese Family Lawyers understand the special traditions in Chinese culture. In today’s blog Sunny Chiu, Mandarin, and Cantonese speaking Vancouver lawyer explains how the tradition of “red envelope monies” is dealt with in BC family law cases. MacLean Law has the largest Western Canadian Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese fluent family law teams and a dedicated Chinese language website.
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At MacLean Law, our award-winning Mandarin Cantonese Chinese family lawyers understand each family has its own way of structuring and managing its finances. With a high living standard in an international city like Vancouver, it is not uncommon for young families to receive certain financial support from their parents. Monetary gifts can be provided regularly, and in Chinese culture, sometimes in the form of red envelope money.
The big question for our Vancouver and Richmond Mandarin Cantonese Chinese family lawyers is, how do we look at those monies if your spouse continues receiving them after separation? Vancouver Mandarin and Cantonese speaking lawyer Sunny Chiu explains the BC Court’s treatment of substantial monetary gifts provided by a spouse’s parents.
According to s. 85(1) of the Family Law Act, gifts to a spouse from a third party, which includes a spouse’s parents and extended family members, are excluded from the family property. In other words, on separation, you may not be entitled to a half interest in the red envelope money from your wife or husband’s parents.
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85 (1) The following is excluded from family property:
(a) property acquired by a spouse before the relationship between the spouses began;
(b) inheritances to a spouse;
(b.1) gifts to a spouse from a third party;
(c) a settlement or an award of damages to a spouse as compensation for injury or loss, unless the settlement or award represents compensation for
(i)loss to both spouses, or
(ii)lost income of a spouse;
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That being said, it does not mean you cannot share the benefits of these red envelope monies. In Shih v. Shih, 2015 BCSC 2108 (varied on other grounds 2017 BCCA 37), the court imputed an annual income of $30,000 to one parent based on annual financial assistance received from family members totaling $322,500 over a period of 10 years and used to maintain the recipient’s lifestyle and accumulate assets. Sunny Chiu, our downtown Vancouver Mandarin Cantonese Chinese family lawyers team member summarizes the key points:
Ms. Shih’s Income
177 In Korman v. Korman, 2015 ONCA 578 (Ont. C.A.) at paras. 64-67, the Ontario Court of Appeal held that income should be imputed to Mr. Korman as a result of monetary gifts provided to him by his parents. There was a settled pattern of such gifts over many years and the gifts were substantial (between 1990 and 2009 the parents gifted at least $986,000). The court distinguished Bak because in Bak the parent provided financial assistance to support a disabled adult child whereas Mr. Korman supported himself and the monetary gifts helped him maintain a certain lifestyle. The court also noted that if Mr. Korman’s parents’ practice of making significant monetary gifts changed, it would be open to him to apply to for an adjustment.
178 Having considered the cases and, in particular the factors listed in Bak, I am persuaded that it would be appropriate to impute some additional income to Ms. Shih to reflect the financial assistance she has received from her parents. This is not a case of Ms. Shih needing support due to a medical condition. Rather, she supports herself, and the financial assistance she has received permits her to maintain a certain lifestyle. I am not suggesting she lives an extravagant lifestyle, but the gifts have permitted her to contribute to the accumulation of property such as the family homes and RRSPs and, in doing so, have freed up income that has contributed to more than a basic standard of living. While I am not persuaded that the gifts are income in disguise, a pattern of almost annual gifts has developed, particularly over the last five or six years. Some of the gifts have been in very significant amounts. Ms. deVries’ purpose in giving the gifts is to permit her children to spend the money on “fun” or otherwise as they see fit, and she intends to continue to give her children monetary gifts and, in doing so, will rely on advice from her children. Ms. Shih will continue to participate in the formulation of that advice.
179 When considering whether it is appropriate to impute income in any particular case, a court must bear in mind the objectives expressed in s. 1 of the Guidelines to establish fair support based on the means of the parties in an objective manner that reduces conflict, ensures consistency and encourages resolution. In my view, a consideration of these objectives supports the imputation of some income to Ms. Shih because the nature of the financial assistance she receives from her mother significantly enhances her means and it is likely to continue.
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Our Vancouver and Richmond Mandarin Cantonese Chinese family lawyers are ready and available to assist you. Just call our Mandarin and Cantonese language dedicated hotline at 604 682 6466. If you or a family member need our Vancouver Mandarin and Cantonese Speaking Family Lawyers assistance, rest assured we will provide focused and sage advice to you in either Cantonese or Mandarin. Studies show it’s critical you exchange information in your primary language to avoid confusion and poor results in the courtroom. Contact Sunny Chiu today!