BC Supreme Court rules for equal asset division in Port Alberni property dispute

The case involved a long-standing dispute between former spouses

BC Supreme Court rules for equal asset division in Port Alberni property dispute

The BC Supreme Court ruled for an equal division of assets in the dispute between former spouses who operated a bed and breakfast in Port Alberni.

The dispute in Creelman v Heuser, 2024 BCSC 754, involves a long-standing property dispute between Kenneth Creelman and Cheryl Heuser following their separation in March 2020. The couple, who had been married for 27 years and jointly operated a bed and breakfast in Port Alberni, BC, presented conflicting claims regarding the division of family property and debts.

The court confirmed the parties' divorce and addressed the division of their family property and debt, focusing on their home, which also functioned as the Hummingbird Guesthouse. The property, valued at $1.1 million, became a focal point of the dispute, with Heuser seeking a 70 percent stake, citing her substantial contributions to the business.

Despite the contention, the Supreme Court ruled for an equal division of the property's proceeds once sold, dismissing Heuser's claims of unjust enrichment by Creelman.

Throughout the proceedings, both Creelman and Heuser demonstrated their inability to cooperate, complicating the sale of the property and their joint business operations. This ongoing conflict influenced the court's decision to implement four months, during which both parties retain joint conduct on the sale, after which Creelman will assume sole conduct if the property remains unsold.

Moreover, the court addressed substantial tax liabilities tied to their business, which will be treated as a family debt to be divided equally, contrary to Ms. Heuser's wishes to assign sole responsibility to Creelman. An amount of $275,000 from the sale proceeds will be reserved to address these liabilities.

The court noted that the case involves a typical scenario of asset division where emotional ties to property and business significantly affect negotiations. The court’s decision underscored the complexities of family law, where financial intertwining and personal relationships make equitable resolutions challenging. Both parties now face the task of cooperating to resolve their financial obligations and finalize their separation.

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