Lower court's valuation included only house and yard site for equal division
The whole land parcel on which a house stands comprises the family home for purposes of valuation in a divorce proceeding, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has ruled.
In Tysseland v. Tysseland, 2022 SKCA 39, the appellant woman and the respondent man started living together in late 1993. They first resided in a farmhouse, then bought a townhouse with the intention of making it their family home. They married in 1997 and began living in the townhouse.
In 1998, the man told the woman that their relationship was over and he returned to live on the farm with his father. After that point, the parties intermittently lived together throughout their tumultuous relationship. After his father died in 2001, the man inherited the land and its improvements, including the farmhouse and the quarter section where it stood.
The man petitioned for divorce in 2015 after he separated from the woman for the last time. The trial judge made the following findings, among others:
- The farmhouse, not the townhouse, was the parties’ family home
- The parties were entitled to an equal division of the value of the farmhouse and the yard site where it was located
- As for the other land and property inherited from the father, the man should receive 75 percent of the value, while the woman should get 25 percent
- The man should pay the woman, as a bottom line, an equalization payment of $456,517
- The woman should get monthly spousal support of $350, retroactive to July 2015.
The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal allowed the woman’s appeal to a certain extent. The appellate court made the following adjustments to the lower court’s judgment:
- The family home’s valuation should be adjusted to $539,000 from $275,000
- The home quarter should be excluded from the family property subject to an unequal distribution
- Regarding certain items of family property to which the trial judge did not refer, the hopper-bottom bins and aeration fans should be valued at $11,000 and $7,200 respectively.
In line with these changes, the appellate court ordered the adjustment of the bottom line of the equalization payment that the trial judge ordered.
The appeal court agreed that the trial judge failed to value or account for some assets in his inventory of the family property. With respect to the family home’s valuation, the trial judge should have considered the full home quarter as being the family home and should not have limited the family home to the yard site, the appellate court ruled.
The past decisions of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench consistently proceeded on the basis that the family home should include the whole home quarter, the appellate court noted. In addition, the parties in this case treated the home quarter as a single unit.
The appellant’s other contentions were not well-founded, the appellate court held. Contrary to the appellant’s arguments, the trial judge properly determined the amount of spousal support and handled the division of the inheritance that the respondent received during the course of the marriage.
There was no basis for the appellate court to intervene with the trial judge’s approach to the matter of the parties’ income. Regarding how the inheritance should be divided, the appellate court acknowledged that another judge might have decided on a division other than 75:25. However, the trial judge in this case did not determine the issue of property division in a manner that justified appellate intervention.