Days before marriage, husband transferred his assets to company
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Court of Appeal yesterday affirmed the decision of a Supreme Court judge that ordered for a husband’s assets, which were acquired before entering the marriage with his wife, be split between them as part of their divorce, despite the assets being transferred to a company days before the marriage.
Julius Dianza Chisholm, a building contractor and pastor of Pilgrim Native Baptist Church on Acklins, appealed the lower court’s ruling, which would see his former wife, Ophella Arnette Chisholm, formerly Bateman, get a share of the assets.
Court of Appeal Justices Sir Michael Barnett, Maureen Crane-Scott and Milton Evans ruled on the matter.
The couple was married in 1998.
The husband was a widower and the wife was a divorcee.
Days before the marriage, the husband transferred his assets to a company beneficially owned by him and his children born of his deceased wife.
He retained five percent interest.
At the time of their marriage, the pair were 57 and 47 respectively. They are now in their 70s.
They were married for 19 years before the husband filed for divorce, which was granted in June 2018, and ancillary proceedings commenced.
The Supreme Court ruled on the matter in September 2020.
The husband appealed on the basis that the trial judge erred in law in the application and treatment of the evidence as it relates to the Matrimonial Causes Act; that the judge’s conclusions were outside the scope of what was “reasonable”; and that the judge erred in his interpretation and resulting application of the “fairness in equality” principle.
In her affidavit, the wife said she sacrificed her career to be a “dutiful wife” and said throughout the marriage she worked at her husband’s side in the church.
While the husband was financially more successful, both parties acquired assets prior to the marriage.
The husband’s assets included up to 12 acres of land on Andros; a duplex in South Beach valued at $300,000; a vacant lot adjacent to the duplex valued at $65,000; three rental units in The Grove, which generated $600 and $1,000 per month respectively; a parcel of land on Acklins; J & J Chisholm Construction Ltd; and a property on Fourth Street valued at $400,000.
The husband argued the properties were owned by Chisholm Holdings Ltd from 1990, prior to the marriage, and therefore were not matrimonial property.
He said the only matrimonial property was the land on Acklins.
In his ruling, Barnett said the entire object of the division of property upon the dissolution of a marriage is to achieve fairness.
He said it is not law that assets acquired before marriage are irrelevant to determining fairness.
She also said in the absence of full and frank disclosure by the husband, he cannot “now be heard to complain”.
She said the exercise of the judge’s discretion cannot be faulted.
Ramona Farquharson-Seymour represented the appellant, while Marylee Braynen-Symonette acted as counsel for the respondent.