After nine years of wedded bliss, Gladiator star Russell Crowe and his wife, Dancing with the Stars contestant Danielle Spencer, are calling it quits. The couple has two children, Charles and Tennyson, aged eight and six.
According to reports, Crowe and his wife had recently grown apart due to his hectic lifestyle and heavy shooting schedule - the actor filmed three movies in 2011 alone.
The silver lining in this case, namely the large payout owing to Ms. Spencer is likely to provide some solace in the aftermath of her separation from her movie star ex. If the online gossip community is to be believed, Crowe is expected to pay Spencer approximately $32 million even before they divide up the rest of their property, estimated at upwards of $48 million.
Surprisingly, the source of the actor's fortune is not attributable to his movie career alone. Rather, Crowe is reportedly an enthusiastic entrepreneur, with investments in ventures ranging from a rugby team, gym, and a meat company.
In any divorce, the division of property is often most contentious issue to be resolved. Under Ontario's Family Law Act, divorce triggers the equalization of net family property. According to s. 4(1) of the Act, this term is defined as:
the value of all the property, except property described in subsection (2), that a spouse owns on the valuation date, after deducting,
(a) the spouse's debts and other liabilities, and
(b) the value of property, other than a matrimonial home, that the spouse owned on the date of the marriage, after deducting the spouse's debts and other liabilities, other than debts or liabilities related directly to the acquisition or significant improvement of a matrimonial home, calculated as of the date of the marriage;
From this definition alone, it is evident that the equalization of each party's net growth as experienced during the marriage is often neither a simple nor a straightforward task.
In its simplest form, the calculation requires each party to add up the value of all assets they owned at the date of separation, including pensions, RRSPs, contingent interests, etc. (which may require professional valuation). From this subtotal, the parties will subtract all debts owed as of the date of separation and the value of all property, other than a matrimonial home, that was owned by each person on the date of marriage.
In the result, the spouse with the higher net family property pays the spouse with the lower net family property one half of the difference.
Unfortunately, the calculation as previously described does not even begin to scratch the surface of complications that can arise in attempting to ascertain each party's net growth during the marriage.
For example, certain assets like inheritances may be excluded from the total value of assets owned at the date of separation if certain conditions are fulfilled. Similarly, the matrimonial home, which has a very specific definition under family law legislation, receives remarkably unique treatment from other assets in the equalization calculation.
Clearly, it is in the interests of both parties to retain counsel and experts to ensure that the equalization is accurate, equitable and just. In the soon to be former Mrs. Russell Crowe's case, we are confident that she will leave the tough stuff to the pros while she awaits the large settlement she is expected to receive.