Comedian, actress, and talk show host, Aisha Tyler, married her college sweetheart, Jeff Tietjens, in or around 1992. After more than 20 years of marriage, the couple separated in January of 2015 and their divorce papers were filed in L.A. Superior Court in early April of 2016.
Both Tyler and Tietjens developed successful careers after they got married. Tyler has had a diverse career including stand-up comedy, acting, writing, and lately she has been best known as one of the co-hosts of "The Talk". As a result of her success, Tyler's net worth is estimated to be approximately $8 million. Tietjens was a successful corporate lawyer for approximately 10 years from 2000 to 2010, however, he voluntarily stopped practicing law in 2010. Information about Tietjens's net worth and current income is not readily available, however it is assumed that Tyler's financial position is significantly better than his and this raises the question of what, if anything, will Tyler have to pay Tietjens as a result of the breakdown of their marriage.
Although Tietjens has stated that he will not be seeking spousal support, the couple's settlement agreement will still have to deal with the issue of division of property. The settlement of property issues can be a somewhat complicated process after long marriages like that of Tyler and Tietjens. If Tyler and Tietjens were residents of Ontario, the governing statute would be the Family Law Act (FLA), which provide that married spouses are entitled to equalization of net family property. In order to calculate equalization, each party's net family property must be determined, which involves establishing the value of assets and liabilities each party has at the time of separation as well as what each spouse brought into the marriage and any other assets that may be excluded from net family property. Significant financial disclosure may be required to prove the relevant values and for couples like Tyler and Tietjens, who have been married for 20 years, major complications may arise when attempting to prove date-of-marriage values because the information and documentation is no longer available.
Ordinarily, separating and divorcing spouses may rely on various types of documents to prove the relevant values as at the date the parties were married or began cohabiting and as at the separation date. Some examples include the following:
- bank statements reflecting the value of chequing and savings accounts, RRSPs, RIFs, LIRAs;
- employee pension statements, pay stubs, or correspondence from an employer or pension plan administrator reflecting the value of the spouse's pension;
- statements of investment holdings such as mutual funds, stocks, bonds, or other investment account statements,
- tax assessments or statements reflecting amounts owed by the party or owed to the party at the relevant time;
- mortgage, line of credit, or other loan statements;
- credit card statements or other statements of credit accounts held at the relevant time; and
- professional appraisals or valuations of real property and personal property, such as jewelry, artwork, vehicles, and other valuable items.
It is generally not difficult to collect the necessary documents to establish separation date values given that banks and other institutions can often reproduce statements reflecting the relevant values or draft correspondence to verify same. The problem arises when couples separate after long term marriages and the spouses have not kept documents pertaining to their assets and liabilities at date-of-marriage. It is much more difficult to look back in time after the fact since banks and other institutions usually do not keep records that are more than 7 years old.
One way to ensure that this problem does not arise is to plan ahead by collecting and maintaining a copy of all necessary documentation when getting married. However, most couples only discover they need such documentation once they begin the separation process. For couples like Tyler and Tietjens, who remain friendly post-separation, the parties may simply agree to treat their date-of marriage assets as equal in order to save time and legal fees despite not having documentary proof. Given that Tyler and Tietjens attended university together and likely had similar expenses prior to marriage, it may be safe to assume that they also had similar debt loads. Assuming that neither party had significant assets when they got married, the parties may find that it costs more to attempt to obtain proof of date-of marriage assets than the value of the assets that could be deductions from net family property for the purpose of equalization.
In other situations where one spouse entered the marriage with significantly greater assets or significantly less debt, he or she may stand to benefit a great deal from searching out proof of date-of-marriage values.