Oral Family Property Agreements Lawyers help you paper a deal so you save thousands if not millions. It is well known that fairly negotiated written family agreements can have a significant impact on family law disputes in the courts. Surprisingly to many family law clients, In British Columbia, oral family agreements regarding property division are enforceable, despite the famous saying, “oral agreements aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.”
In today’s blog, Vancouver Articling Student Oliver Spinks one our skilled team of Oral Family Property Agreements Lawyers explains how an oral contract between a husband and wife can be enforced even after 30 years.
Oral Family Property Agreements Lawyers
One thing is certain the money you save initially not doing a written agreement is more than offset by the dramatically increased costs in trying to prove an oral agreement is valid. Be smart and call Oli Spinks or any of MacLean Law’s top rated Vancouver family agreement lawyers at 604 602 9000 to properly paper any deal you are making either at the start or end of your marriage or marriage like relationship.
Oral agreements and handwritten agreements often require the assistance of a lawyer in defending, deciphering, enforcing, or dismantling them. To ensure that a properly negotiated, drafted, and executed marriage agreement is made after full disclosure and at a time when neither spouse is under undue pressure, we recommend paying a modest fee to a top Vancouver Marriage Agreement Lawyer.
The BC Court of Appeal recently affirmed the principles of oral agreements in Voitchovsky v. Gibson, 2022 BCCA 428. The parties were in a marriage-like relationship for 30 years. Upon separation, the appellant sought an equal division of family property. The judge found the parties made an oral agreement at the beginning of the relationship to keep their property separate and their conduct throughout the relationship supported this finding. As a result, the judge found it would be significantly unfair to divide the parties’ property equally. Held: appeal dismissed. It was reasonably open to the judge to find the parties had an oral agreement and that it would be significantly unfair to divide the parties’ property equally. The appellant has not identified any error in the reasons below that would justify appellate intervention of a largely discretionary decision. The narrow scope of review in family law cases disposes of this appeal.
The following principles regarding enforcement of oral oral family property agreements emerge from the jurisprudence:
- When the court is faced with an alleged oral agreement, it is necessary to look not only at the words used, but also at whether the parties’ conduct is consistent with the oral agreement;
- The test for a binding and enforceable agreement is “whether the parties have indicated to the outside world, in the form of the objective reasonable bystander, their intention to contract and the terms of such contract”;
- The determination of the outward manifestation of the parties’ intentions is contextual and takes into account the parties’ communications as well as their conduct before and after the agreement is made;
- The parties must have reached consensus on the essential terms of their agreement and failure to reach this “meeting of the minds” means the agreement will fail for lack of certainty. This inquiry is an objective one, such that the actual state of mind and personal knowledge of the parties is not relevant; and
- The question is “not what the parties subjectively had in mind but whether their conduct was such that a reasonable person would conclude that they intended to be bound” and in analyzing this conduct, courts can consider the surrounding circumstances.
Vancouver Oral Family Property Agreements Lawyers 604 602 9000
The Court held:
 I agree with the respondent that the evidence overwhelmingly supported the conclusion that both parties agreed to keep their individual property separate and there would be no property sharing, except for a small number of specific exceptions. Their conduct throughout the 30-year relationship was also consistent with having made this agreement such that, as per Ethiopian Orthodox at para. 35, a reasonable person in the position of the other party would find the parties conducted themselves in accordance with the oral agreement. A reasonable person would also conclude the parties intended to be bound by their oral agreement (Ethiopian Orthodox, at para. 37).
Those seeking to avoid unexpected results regarding property division should consider the benefits of a written agreement. It is costly to prove oral family agreements in litigation as it requires “a much higher level of scrutiny of witness credibility,” resulting in additional court time and unpredictable results. Why be penny wise and pound foolish says Oli Spinks.
Call one of BC’s Most Top Rated Family lawyers 604 602 9000
When dealing with an oral agreement, Oliver Spinks advises that formalizing it into a written agreement can save a substantial amount of time, money, and stress. This is especially true should the agreement ever be litigated. In the event of a breakdown in the relationship, written family agreements can protect you against accusations of an “oral agreement.” Call our top rated lawyers today to find out who we are click here.