How are Hobby Assets and Collections Divided Upon Divorce in BC?

This article based on past B.C. court decisions explores how hobby assets and collections are dealt with during divorce in British Columbia.


Dividing Family Assets – Hobbies & Collections

 In O’Bryan v. O’Bryan, the British Columbia Supreme Court considered whether a collection of sports memorabilia accumulated by the husband was a “family asset” that required division as per section 56 of the Family Relations Act.[1]  The defendant argued that his sports memorabilia collection his own personal property and not a family asset.  In the alternative Mr. O’Bryan suggested that only the portion of his collection that was on display in the family home should be considered a family asset.[2]

The O’Byrans had been married for 10 years.  Mr. O’Bryan accumulated the majority of the items before the marriage, with only approximately $5,000 (US) of the collection being purchased during the course of their marriage.  His collection was stored, for the majority, in the den of the their family home, which was used exclusively by him.  Only a few select pieces worth approximately $8,700 were on display elsewhere in the rest of the home.  His entire collection was valued at approximately $208,000, though Mr. O’Bryan had sold his baseball collection for $55,000 (US) in the year proceeding the couple’s separation.

Although the plaintiff, Mrs. O’Bryan, occasionally accompanied Mr. O’Bryan on trips to card shows, she rarely attended the actual events.  The couple had discussed selling the collection to purchase a summer home, but this never happened.[3]

How have British Columbia courts dealt with hobbies and collections?

The jurisprudence on whether hobbies are considered family assets in British Columbia is mixed and each case tends to turn on its facts.  While some authorities, have maintained that hobby equipment is not a family asset, this has generally been in circumstances where the asset was exclusively used by one spouse and its value was particularly low.[4]

The courts pay specific attention to the manner in which the collection is kept.  For example, if it is displayed as an ornament in the family home, it is more likely to be considered a family asset.  This was the case in Hollinger v. Hollinger where a gun collection was found to be a family asset when it was used as a decoration.[5]

In Matheson v. Matheson, the British Columbia Supreme Court noted that the a collection of cars fell into the category of a family asset because the wife had made a “substantial and equal contribution to the acquisition of the vehicles by contributing her earnings toward family expenses and her time to effectively managing the household and raising the children, thereby achieving savings and giving Mr. Matheson freedom to use his time and money furthering his car collection.”[6]

Was Mr. O’Bryan’s collection a family asset?

The court in O’Bryan followed Papineau v. Papineau, a decision that held each case must be determined on its own facts.  Papineau also maintained that a “hobby carried on during a marriage, even though it is the hobby of one spouse to the virtual exclusion of the other, should be considered a family asset…it may not be fair to order the equal division” of said asset.[7]

In O’Bryan, Madam Justice Dillon concluded that although there must be an “arena of purely personal pursuit of interests which may be exclusive of family purposes” whether a collection is a family asset is a question that must be determined on its facts with the burden resting on the person claiming the hobby is not a family asset.[8]   The judge determined that since the sports memorabilia collection was partially displayed, the collection had to be considered a family asset.  However, she held that any unfairness arising from this characterization could be dealt with through judicial reapportionment.  In other words, the collection did not have to be distributed on a one-half interest basis.  Mrs. O’Byran was awarded a 20% interest in Mr. O’Bryan’s sports memorabilia.

Tips for keeping your collections to yourself…

If you are entering a marriage and are concerned about the value of a particular hobby or collection you have a few options.  First, you can endeavor to keep the assets as a “boxed collection.”   By keeping the particular items out of the public family space you may be successful in maintaining a private interest.  However, this also means might not be able to show off your collection easily to guests in your home.   A better option may be to include a private ownership clause regarding the particular collection in a marriage agreement.  Provided that the arrangement is not considered unfair as per s. 65 of the Family Relations Act, you will be safe to showcase your collection without turning the items into family assets.


[1] Family Relations Act, RSBC 1996, c. 128, s. 56.
[2] O’Bryan v. O’Bryan [1996] B.C.J. No. 1125 (S.C.).
[3] Ibid.
[4] Newton v. Newton (1987) B.C.J. No. 3051; French v. French (1994) B.C.J. No. 2371.
[5] Hollinger v. Hollinger, Richmond Registry No. 5938-02583 (March 1982).
[6] Matheson v. Matheson (1987) B.C.J. No. 896.
[7] Papineau v. Papineau (1981) 31 B.C.L.R. 363.
[8] O’Bryan, supra.

Add Comment

Personal injury attorney
13 Different Types of Personal Injury Lawyers
Mechanic working on car in garage
16 Different Types of Mechanics for All Types of Motorized Vehicles and Equipment
Cleint meets with personal injury lawyer
17 Things to Know Before Hiring a Personal Injury lawyer
Disability Insurance Form Application
How to Initiate a Disability Claim in BC After Car Accident
Role of executor
Your Role as Will Executor in British Columbia
Last will and testament with gavel
Common Grounds for Challenging a Will in British Columbia
Last will and testament
What Happens When a Will Is Damaged or Lost?
Vancouver courthouse downtown
When Can BC Courts Deny a Wills Variation Act Claim?
Divorce judge gavel on table
10 of the Best Online Divorce Services for a DIY Divorce in the USA
Wedding rings and divorce document
5 Top Canadian Online Divorce Services to Get a DIY Divorce
Josh Duhamel and Fergie
30 High Profile Celebrity Divorces and Splits from 2018 and 2017
Divorce document torn up and wedding rings apart
The Different Types of Divorce in Canada
Gavel with stand and handcuffs on the wooden background.
10 Different Types of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Handcuffed hands on a table beside packaged drugs
24 Countries That Have the Death Penalty for Drug Trafficking
: A young woman sitting on a vintage chair and watching TV
20 Best Crime Drama TV Shows
Man stealing a painting
25 of the Biggest Art Heists of All Time
A little boy goes to the doctor
11 Different Types of Health Insurance
: opting for dental insurance
7 Types of Dental Insurance for You and Your Family
a man completing a wooden model of a house by inserting a wooden block on which “insurance” is written
The 2 Types of Renters Insurance Plus the What, Who and Why
9 Different Types of Insurance