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Steven Spielberg and Amy Irving were married in 1985 and divorced in 1989. The couple share one child of the marriage. The couple had a marriage contract (pre-nuptial agreement). If they had been divorced in Ontario, the following represents how their case may have been settled.

Marriage Contract (Pre-nuptial Agreement)

Spielberg and Irving’s marriage contract was scribbled on the back of a napkin, and neither party sought independent legal advice with respect to it. The fact that it is on a napkin does not pose a problem. However, the marriage contract does have other deficiencies. For a marriage contract made in Ontario to be valid a number of requirements must be met including: each spouse must obtain independent legal advice and the agreement must be witnessed. Neither of these requirements were met. Therefore, the marriage contract can be challenged. If Irving contests the contract, which is in her interest to do, it is likely that she will succeed in having the contract deemed unenforceable. With no valid marriage contract in place, Irving is entitled to seek her full marital property and equalization rights under Ontario law.

Net Family Property

In order to determine what if any equalization payment may be payable, both spouses would have to account for all* the property they acquired during the marriage. Each party would draft a financial statement indicating the value of their properties. Using these statements the person with the lower net family property, Irving, would subtract her net family property from Spielberg’s higher net family property. The remaining amount would be divided by two in order to determine the quantum of “equalization payment” owed by Spielberg to Irving. However, this typical equalization equation may not be applied in this case. The couple was married fewer than five years. Therefore, Spielberg would make an argument for an unequal distribution of the net family property. Given the amount of equalization payment that Irving stands to receive in relation to the length of marriage, Spielberg has a decent argument for unequal distribution.

* There are some exceptions to what is included in the net family property, for example, certain gifts.