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    A friend of mine was married for 11 months and now she's separated. She's still paying for her ex's expensive condo renovations, for which they jointly borrowed. He lives there alone and won't pay the loans. He bought the condo 1-1/2 years before their marriage. Help!
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    Normally, the value of any asset bought into a marriage is not calculated as
    part of a spouse's "net worth" or "net family property." Therefore, an assets premarital
    value is not shared with the other spouse when calculating property "equalization" in
    Ontario. For instance if, before your wedding, in 1980, you owned 100 securities in
    Google Inc (wish you did eh?) at $15 per security, and on separating with your spouse
    they were now worth $100 per security, you would not have to share their entire value,
    but just split their increase in value i.e. $85. However, the Family Law Act makes an
    exception for any matrimonial home irrespective in whose name(s) is it registered. So
    even if the husband owned the matrimonial home prior to the date of marriage and the
    spouse still lived in that very same home on the date of separation, then the entire value
    of the equity of that home, calculated as of the date of separation, must be shared equally,
    including the pre-marital value. Having said that, the court can also make an award fro an
    amount that is smaller than half of the 50-50 split if it doing that doing so would be
    "unconscionable," having regard to the fact that such a spouse might receive is
    disproportionately large in relation to a period of cohabitation that is less than five years.
    However, in your case the court has to consider your friend's ongoing financial
    contributions to the value of the home. Not withstanding the brief marriage, she may be
    entitled to own a piece of the equity, as much as 50-50 percent. Why? Here the wife
    maybe the beneficiary of a "constructive" trust because her husband would be "unjustly
    enriched" if he were to benefit from her financial contributions to the upkeep of, and
    investments into, property that was only registered in his name, but which also belonged
    to her on trust principles. For these reasons the court may well not use its discretion under
    the Family Law Act to consider it "unconscionable" to award less than 20-50 percent of
    the equity (depending on the precise facts), notwithstanding the summary way it would
    dispense with such applications in other types of short marriages. People should not judge
    every spouse, in such cases, as "Goldiggers."

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