Resolving the property matters of separated couples

The contribution in the making of the property is the main element in determining the rights of each spouse's share, as George Coucounis explains.

The property relations between spouses vary because of the different types of property assets, the manner and the time of obtaining them, the difference in the contribution by each spouse, as well as on whose name the assets are held or registered. In practice, it is observed that the aforementioned issues are serious and their solution is difficult in many cases. The term “property relations” between spouses who are separated means the relations which concern the movable and immovable property that has been acquired by any of the spouses in view of the marriage, before or any time after it. “Contribution” means the contribution by any of the spouses in the increase of the property and includes looking after the house and the members of the family.

The issue for resolving the property matters between separated couples is within the jurisdiction of the Family Court and it is regulated by article 14 of Law 232/1991, as amended and provides the following:- “14 (1) In the event that the marriage is annulled or dissolved or in the event of separation and if the property of one of the spouses has been increased since the date of the marriage, the other spouse, if he or she has contributed in any way in the increase, can raise a claim to the Family Court for his/her part of the increase which resulted from his/her contribution. (2) The contribution of the one spouse to the increase of the property of the other is presumed to be the 1/3 of the increase, unless a higher or a lower contribution is proved. (3) In the calculation of the increase of the spouses’ property, the following assets are not included if obtained:- (a) by way of gift, inheritance, bequest or any other way of donation, (b) by disposing the property obtained in any of the ways mentioned in clause (a).

The Supreme Court of Cyprus dealt with the interpretation and implementation of article 14, in cases referred to, which concerned dispute between spouses and it has interfered and resolved the matter. The wife, through a claim to the Family Court, requested the share owed to her by her husband in the increase of the property which was made after the marriage. The principles for determining the share of a spouse to the increase of the property of the other spouse, is as follows:

The obtaining of a share in the property of a spouse is analogous with the contribution of the other spouse to its increase. The measure, therefore, for obtaining the share is objective and is that of the contribution. (b) The object of the distribution is not the property itself, but the increase of the property of each spouse made after the marriage. (c) The contribution, according to article 14, is the main element in determining the percentage of the share of the non registered owner. If the contribution is not evident, then it is presumed as the 1/3 of the increase. This presumption ousts the implementation of the principle of equity ‘equality is equity’.

The Supreme Court of Cyprus accepted that the wife through her work in the household and the care of the family contributed in the increase of her husband’s property. However, the evidence she presented was not such as to enable the Court to come to a safe finding regarding her contribution. Therefore, the Court implemented article 14 (2) of the law which refers to the contribution of 1/3 of the increase. Furthermore, the Court deducted from the total increase of the husband’s property, the gifts given to him by his father and the debts from the loans he made. According to the Court, the increase that can be distributed between spouses is not the value of the property registered in the name of the husband, but the net value of his property which can be found after ascertaining the property on the one hand and his financial obligations on the other hand.

About the author

George Coucounis

George Coucounis is an experienced lawyer practicing in Larnaca, Cyprus. Educated at University College (London) and Thessaloniki University (Greece), George is fluent in English and has been practicing law in Cyprus since 1982.

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