Family Law – A Gift of Money from a Parent may still be Subject to Division between Separating Spouses

Under section 85 of the Family Law Act (the “Act”), gifts to a spouse from a third party are excluded property – meaning that they are not divided between the spouses at separation.  However, if a gift from a third party was intended to be made to both spouses, then the gift will qualify as family property and is subject to division at separation.

In Delaurier v. Massicotte, 2018 BCSC 1857, the Respondent sought to assert that a significant portion of the former family home was excluded property, including $100,000.00 which was a gift from the Respondent’s father. The Claimant took the position that the $100,000.00 was a gift to both the Respondent and the Claimant, and was therefore not excluded property.

In every case where a party is claiming that a gift or property is excluded property, the party asserting that position must prove, on a balance of probabilities, that the gift was only intended for them (para 124).

In Delaurier, the Respondent could have called his father to testify, however, he refused to do so on the grounds that his father did not speak English and was blind in one eye (para 132).

Madam Justice Fleming wrote that where a party to litigation fails to call a witness who would have knowledge of the facts and would be assumed to be willing to assist that party, the Court can draw an adverse inference that the failure to call that person amounts to an implied admission that the evidence of the absent witness would be contrary to the parties’ case or at least would not support it (para 130).

In the circumstances, Justice Fleming chose to draw an adverse inference against the Respondent, and found that the gift of $100,000.00 was intended to be given to both the Claimant and the Respondent, and therefore constituted family property.

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