Case: Lee v. Chung
Short Term Marriage and long term separation, Child Support, Spousal Support and BC Property Division
I was honoured to be the counsel on the case of Lee vs. Chung. This was a case about a short marriage and a very long separation. It took 15 days of trial and 6 months for the judge to think and render her decision. The parties were married for 6 years and separated for 17 years. My client, Ms. Lee, was seeking a portion of Mr. Chung’s home which was purchased after separation and was worth around $1.2 million dollars. Just before trial, Mr. Chung started alleging that the parties were never even married to begin with! What happened next?
Was there a Valid Marriage?
Much of the trial revolved around whether the parties were married in the first place. The parties married under the Korean law but when they got married, they were in Ontario. They were not permanent residents of Canada, so they thought they needed to register the Marriage at the Korean Consulate and so they did. They did not get married in the City Hall in Ontario.
Mr. Chung started saying that:
- He did not remember getting married to Ms. Lee
- There was no marriage cermemony
- He did not register his marriage at the Korean Consulate and probably ‘someone else’ did
- That Ms. Lee had no entitlement to his assets because they were never married to begin with.
After hiring a Korean lawyer from Korea to attest to the validity of the parties’ marriage, the judge decided that the Korean Marriage Certificate was proof of marriage and that the parties had in fact married. What happened next?
Short Marriage, Long Separation – Was Mr. Lee entitled to Family Assets?
This case was an uphill battle. During their marriage, the parties barely had any assets. It wasn’t until five year after separation that Mr. Chung purchased a house. This house was not used for family purposes but was purchased from the little monies the parties saved up during marriage.
Although the house was purchased 5 years after separation, Ms. Lee said that she was entitled to a portion of it because she sacrificed her life and her savings to take care of the three children the parties had while Mr. Chung often refused to even see them and accumulated money while Ms. Lee spent hers for the sake of the children.
The parties had a tumultuous marriage and separation. Ms. Lee tried to keep the family together but Mr. Chung refused to be a part of the family. At the time of trial the parties were in their 50s and 60s. Mr. Chung had assets worth around $1.3 million dollars and Ms. Lee had nothing.
Decision of the Honourable Madam Justice Adair on BC Short Marriage, Long Separation
The judge in this case ruled that Ms. Lee was entitled to:
- A divorce because she was found to be married
- $300,000 for her interest in Mr. Chung’s business and house which was purchased after separation
- $20,000 in retroactive child support
- Ongoing child support for the three children.
The judgement on this case was 53 pages long. It was an extremely complicated case but I am glad my client obtained her fair share to enable her to survive in the future, having had virtually no support from Mr. Chung during her separation.