RELATED CASES AND POSTS
 ... the onus is on the party seeking to vary the agreement to establish that it is unfair; fairness is not to be equated with equality or near equality. ...
 ... in relation to the division of family property, that such a division may have to be unequal in order to be fair. ...
 ... the question of fairness in family property matters ought not to be approached from a commercial perspective. It is necessary to examine whether the agreement reached was actually fair. ...
 ... s. 65 of the FRA does not permit the Court to set aside agreements; it only authorizes reapportionment on the basis of unfairness.The court then quotes Hartshorne for the basic test to determine the fairness of marriage agreements (important bits in bold):
 ... in determining whether a marriage agreement operates unfairly, a court must first apply the agreement. In particular, the court must assess and award those financial entitlements provided to each spouse under the agreement, and other entitlements from all other sources, including spousal and child support. The court must then, in consideration of those factors listed in s. 65(1) of the FRA, make a determination as to whether the contract operates unfairly. At this second stage, consideration must be given to the parties’ personal and financial circumstances, and in particular to the manner in which these circumstances evolved over time. Where the current circumstances were within the contemplation of the parties at the time the Agreement was formed, and where their Agreement and circumstances surrounding it reflect consideration and response to these circumstances, then the plaintiff’s burden to establish unfairness is heavier. Thus, consideration of the factors listed in s. 65(1) of the FRA, taken together, would have to reveal that the economic consequences of the marriage breakdown were not shared equitably in all of the circumstances. This approach, in my view, accords with the underlying principle of the FRA, striking an appropriate balance between deference to the parties’ intentions, on the one hand, and assurance of an equitable result, on the other.The court in Giebelhaus then applied the first stage of the Hartshorne test to see what the parties would be left with under their separation agreement and concluded that the husband would be left with assets totalling $130,265 while the wife would receive, including the family home, assets totalling $242,564.
If the provisions for division of property between spouses under section 56, Part 6 or their marriage agreement, as the case may be, would be unfair having regard to(a) the duration of the marriage,
(b) the duration of the period during which the spouses have lived separate and apart,
(c) the date when property was acquired or disposed of,
(d) the extent to which property was acquired by one spouse through inheritance or gift,
(e) the needs of each spouse to become or remain economically independent and self sufficient, or
Considering the length of the parties' 14 year marriage, the needs of each spouse to become or remain economically independent and self sufficient, and the general s. 65(1)(f) catch-all factor, "any other circumstances relating to the capacity or liabilities of a spouse," the court concluded that the separation agreement was unfair and its division of assets therefore "outside of a reasonable range." The court awarded the husband a further $45,000, leaving him with $175,265 and the wife with $197,564... not exactly an equal division but significantly better than the original agreement.(f) any other circumstances relating to the acquisition, preservation, maintenance, improvement or use of property or the capacity or liabilities of a spouse,the Supreme Court, on application, may order that the property covered by section 56, Part 6 or the marriage agreement, as the case may be, be divided into shares fixed by the court.
The meaning of independent legal advice in the family law context was well described by Pitfield J. in Gurney v. Gurney, 2000 BCSC 6: In the family law context, providing independent legal advice must mean more than being satisfied that a party understands the nature and contents of the agreement and consents to its terms. The solicitor should make inquiries of the party so as to be fully apprised of the circumstances surrounding the agreement. The party should be advised of his or her legal rights and obligations in relation to the subject matter of the agreement and advised of the consequences associated with a refusal to sign. The solicitor should offer his or her opinion on the question of whether it is appropriate for the party to sign the agreement in all of the circumstances. It is only with that kind of advice that the party can make an informed decision about the advisability of entering into the agreement as opposed to pursuing some other course. ... In Bradshaw v. Bradshaw, 2011 BCSC 1103, which refers to Gurney, the Court summarized the principles concerning independent legal advice in the family law context as follows: Independent legal advice, in the family law context, is important because it ensures that the spouses are fully aware of their statutory and common law rights and obligations. It safeguards against one spouse taking unfair advantage of another and redresses or at least minimizes disparity of bargaining power between them... In Gurney, Pitfield J. found that "the lack of independent legal advice in this case is not fatal and the agreement should not be set aside because of its absence" (at para. 30). Indeed, the absence of independent legal advice will not, by itself, invalidate an agreement ... Nor will the receipt of independent legal advice automatically cure or neutralize one or both spouses' vulnerabilities; in other words, it will not protect an otherwise invalid or unfair contract ... I return to s. 65(1)(f) and the factors of the capacities or liabilities of a spouse. I have found the claimant did not have an accurate understanding of the respondent’s income as he had no idea of the value of her pensions. ... In the words of Bradshaw, he was not "fully aware" of his rights and obligations. When these facts are taken into account, I conclude the agreement is unfair. The respondent received the matrimonial home and retained all her pensions. She gave up little. The claimant gave up much. In the result, the statute permits the Court to divide the property appropriately.