Vanessa and Kobe: And the Beef Goes on....

In December 2011, and after 10 years of marriage and one heated cheating scandal, Vanessa Bryant had finally had enough. Quickly after, she filed for divorce from her husband, Kobe Bryant, citing "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the split.

Since then, the couple has been working towards fully and finally resolving the issues stemming from their separation on an amicable, peaceful and private basis with the assistance and guidance of their lawyers.

On January 21, 2012, People.com reported that yet another issue in their divorce is nearing full and final resolution as the couple has voluntarily divided their assets. According to property records, Kobe's and Vanessa's three mansions, valued at an estimated $18.8 million, have been transferred entirely to Vanessa.

Typically, when spouses decide to separate and property is involved, the division of property must be dealt with fairly and reasonably. If spouses are able to cooperate and discuss the division of their assets in a mutually agreeable manner, then they can choose to proceed by way of mediation or negotiation, similarly to the Bryants. In so doing, they would avoid all of the unduly and burdensome fees associated with litigation.

If, on the other hand, the spouses are highly litigious and adversarial, then mediation and/or negotiation may not be best suited for them and so proceeding to a court action would be their only recourse.

What would happen if Vanessa and Kobe were dividing assets in Ontario?

Pursuant to s.7 of the (Ontario) Family Law Act, the court may, on application by a spouse, former spouse, or deceased spouse's personal representative, determine any matter respecting the spouse's entitlement to an equalization payment under s.5.

For clarification, an equalization payment is a payment made by one spouse to another after their respective net family properties have been calculated and it is determined that one spouse has a net family property of higher value than the other. When this occurs, the spouse with the net family property of lesser value is entitled to one-half the difference.

In order to determine a spouse's net family property a calculation must be done whereby the spouses' liabilities are deducted from his or her assets on the date of separation, and then any assets and/or liabilities owned on the date of marriage are deducted from that amount.

There are numerous ways for a spouse to satisfy his or her obligation relating to an equalization payment. For example, he or she may make a direct payment to the other in the amount required. However, the Bryants chose another method as Kobe transferred his interest in three properties to Vanessa.

This method of satisfying an obligation pursuant to a division of property is not a remedy limited to negotiations or mediation. In Ontario, and pursuant to s. 9 of the Family Law Act, a court may order under subsection (d)(i) that, if appropriate to satisfy an obligation imposed by the order, property may be transferred to or in trust for or vested in a spouse, whether absolutely, for life or for a term of years.

This remedy would be useful in a situation where, for example, a direct payment in an extensive amount would not be feasible given a spouse's limited financial means, or when there are multiple properties that can be easily and fairly divided between the spouses through the transferring of interest such that any equalization payment owing would be satisfied.

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