Family Jewellery Now All Part of the Family Pot

Prior to the the enactment of British Columbia’s Family Law Act in 2013, jewellery belonging to each of the parties, particularly a wife’s wedding and engagement rings, were rarely divided between the parties. The treatment of jewellery was rather more civilized under the predecessor legislation.

Today it is very clear that everything is thrown into the family pot and divided, even the most personal items of male and female jewellery.

Relying on section 85 (1)(B.1), Mr. Justice Basran in MN v. CGF 2019 BCSC 1406 noted that while gifts from third parties are excluded from division, a piece of jewellery given by one spouse to the other “falls back into the communal pot when the marriage ends”, citing PG v. Dg 2015 BCSC 1454.

Basran J. specifically considered a Rolex watch the husband said his wife encouraged him to buy for himself during the marriage and the wife’s engagement ring. The court held that the husband had not discharged his onus to establish that the Rolex was excluded property and thus, the proceeds of its recent sale, some $14,000, would be shared by the former spouses.

With respect to the engagement ring, the court remarked on the paucity of evidence, but cited PS v. HR 2016 BCSC 2071, where Mr. Justice Blok held that where there was evidence of a clear intention that the ring was an “absolute gift” the ring would remain with the spouse. However, no such evidence was presented to Basran J. and he found that the engagement ring was divisible family property.

The Court’s solution was to order that all jewellery owned by a spouse before the marriage was excluded property. All jewellery purchased during the marriage would be divided equally, as follows:

“Within 30 days of this judgment, each party shall provide the other with a complete list of the family jewelry items they have in their possession.

Unless the parties agree otherwise, the family jewelry will be divided as follows:

a) After exchanging the lists of family jewelry, the parties will have all of this jewelry valued within 60 days of the date of this judgment, with the cost of the valuation to be shared equally; and

b) After receiving the valuation, each party will have 30 days to select specific jewelry items they wish to retain and will exchange lists of these items. If the parties agree with each other’s lists, each will pay the other half of the assessed value of the items they wish to retain. If the parties are unable to agree on the division of items and/or if there are items that neither of them want, the remaining items will be sold and the parties will equally share the proceeds.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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