Unequal division of property: Recent case law

In a recent decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld a trial court decision, which granted an unequal division of net family property.

The parties in the case of Stetco v Stetco, 2014 ONCA 370, had been married for 32 years. At trial, the judge found the husband’s abusive conduct during the marriage to be unconscionable, which is the standard required to order an unequal division of property.

In upholding the trial court’s decision, the Court of Appeal wrote:

We do not find that the trial judge’s finding of abusive conduct was unrelated to her finding of unconscionability. It was an important part of her reasoning that the husband forced the wife to sign the joint line of credit using the same violence and threats of violence that he had inflicted on her earlier in the relationship.

This is an interesting and valuable case because it is relatively rare for the behaviour of a spouse to be so bad that it reaches the standard of unconscionability. Here, the trial judge clearly drew a direct line between abusive behaviour and inconscionability, at least in the context of division of property.

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