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COVID 19 Division of Family Property

COVID 19 Division of Family Property is a hot button issue for separated parties in Calgary and BC. Nearly three months into the COVID-19 social and economic shut-down, things are starting to get back to (a new) normal – some retail and personal (ie. barbers, doctors, dentists, etc.) services are re-opening; cafes, restaurants, pubs, and bars can open (at 50% capacity); social distancing restrictions are being relaxed (while physical distancing restrictions maintained). BC is expanding openings of offices and courts and in Alberta, the next stage of the re-opening is currently scheduled for June 19, when additional businesses and services, libraries, medical and personal services, and even movie theatres and live theatres may be allowed to re-open.  However, everyone is watching against a resurgence of the virus. Peter Graburn, managing MacLean Law Calgary lawyer, helps you stay safe on COVID 19 division of family property disagreements. Contacting our Calgary and Vancouver COVID 19 Division of Family Property lawyers early on makes sense in this state of legal flux.

MacLean Law is an award-winning family law firm with offices located across BC and in Calgary, Alberta.

Vancouver COVID 19 Division of Family Property

1 877 602 9900

Family property division cases are stacking up as the Courts have been closed to most applications and trials for several weeks. On the other hand, the economy is not doing so well.  Alberta’s unemployment rate hit a new record high of 15.5% in May (although this may be due to the return of people to the labour force after social restrictions were lifted).  Calgary’s downtown Core is quiet (though the malls are busy). CMHC has raised its mortgage lending requirements by about 10% (anticipating a slow-down in the housing market?). In a word (or two) – economic uncertainty. Vancouver is in better shape but stock prices have tumbled and concerns over real estate values are increasing.

The past few months have been difficult for many separated family ex-partners, whether regarding parenting or financially see our COVID-19 Parenting & Child Support blog.  But the BC and Alberta Courts are now starting to schedule regular hearings (if only virtually) to resolve outstanding disputes in these areas. Once the child and financial support issues have been resolved, that usually leaves only one thing to be resolved between separated family ex-partners: division of property. But is this the right time to resolve this issue? Is it even possible? Good questions, and as usual with family law matters, that depends. Before Covid-19  family property division was more straight forward.

COVId 19 Family Property Division
High net worth COVID 19 Family Property Division lawyer Lorne N. MacLean, QC

COVID 19 Division of Family Property –What can you do? 1 877 602 9900

Let’s face it – the value of property (businesses, real estate, investments, pension funds, etc.) is down is Alberta. Even before the COVID-19 shutdown, the Alberta economy was suffering due to record-low oil prices. Now with COVID-19: the stock market has seen huge fluctuations; it is almost impossible to sell (or even show) a house; businesses are slow and their value has dropped in many instances. So how do you even determine values of property to come up with a fair division of family property? Fortunately, there are still a few ways to divide BC and Alberta  family property even during this period of COVID-19 slowdown and after, including:

   ● Use Pre-COVID Values – many separating partners were in the middle of property settlements when the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada in mid-March.  Many had already obtained valuations and appraisals on businesses and property that could be used as figures for settlement purposes.  Even under current COVID-19 conditions, some business valuators and land appraisers believe they can accurately determine values (with appropriate considerations) during the COVID-19 slowdown;

  ● Divide in Kind – this is perhaps the simplest, most straightforward way to divide family property.  If there is a family home, a business, cars, investment, pensions, etc. – one takes the house, the other the business (if they are approximate value); each takes their car, one-half the investments and the pensions are divided equally at source (if possible);

  ● Re-Evaluate in Time – this is perhaps the most complicated, uncertain way to divide family property.  In this case, the parties would take the property they want now and agree to sell (or adjust values of) property in time (a number of months, years, etc.) after the economy and property values stabilize.  This option was exercised in Ontario under that province’s Family Law Act during the economic downturn of 2008 to ensure one partner did not assume all the post-separation decline in value of their mutual property (see: Serra v. Serra, 2009 ONCA 105);

  ● Wait – this is perhaps the most cautious approach to resolving family property while the COVID-19 uncertainty continues – do not (at least finally) resolve the division of family property at this time. Even the Courts are starting to consider this option. As indicated in a recent blog by MacLean Law Founder Lorne MacLean, Vancouver Family Property Valuation During COVID-19, a Court in Ontario (see: Jayawickrema v. Jayawickrema, 2020 ONSC 2492, May 1, 2020) recently adjourned its decision to hear submissions from the parties as to whether it would be unconscionable to divide net family property closer to trial date rather than the separation date during the current COVID-19 conditions, stating (at para.’s 96-97):

Since the trial concluded, the COVID-19 pandemic has decimated the global economy. It was inferentially clear from the wife’s evidence that her business involved students and, quite possibly, people in close contact with each other. Public Health guidelines and restrictions have likely impacted the wife’s ability to operate her business, pay the mortgage on its premises, and thus fund any equalization payment; … I am not prepared to order that an equalization payment be made without further evidence and submissions from the parties…”

So What Should You Do?

COVID 19 Division of Family Property 
Peter Graburn, Calgary COVID 19 Division of Family Property lawyer at MacLean Law

These are unprecedented times – never have we had such a sudden and drastic shutdown of both social and economic activity.  As we recover from this shutdown, we are all trying to accept the results: social/physical distancing; working from home; reduced incomes. We are currently making social and financial decisions on a day-to-day, month-to-month basis, trying to adjust to the “new normal”.

So is this the right time to make decisions regarding the division of family property upon separation?  No-one knows what will happen to the Bc and Alberta (or world-wide) economy post-COVID-19. No one knows what will happen to the value of houses, businesses, or investments as a result of the shutdown. Economic uncertainty. Ultimately it is a personal decision whether to proceed with the division of family property during the post-COVID-19 economy and how.

Calgary COVID-19 Division of Family Property

Calgary COVID-19 Property Division Lawyers assist their clients to understand the different options for dealing with the division of family property during and after the COVID-19 social and economic shut-down, and the different processes (ie. mediation, arbitration, litigation, etc.) available for resolving disputes over this difficult decision. Contact our Vancouver COVID 19 Division of Family Property lawyer early on to avoid negative consequences.