ice hockeyWith the Leafs’ season fading fast, the Raptors never really in contention this year and the Jays dropping off the divisional radar screen before the last half of the season each year since 1995, perhaps you might say “Who cares which spouse ends up with the tickets to the losers?”.

But as the expression goes – “Hope springs eternal!” 

Just think of those long-suffering Boston Red Sox fans:  Their team had not won a World Series since 1918 due to the rumoured “Curse of the Bambino”.  But now, in the past several years, they have won 2 Series, coming out of, arguably, the toughest division in baseball (hence the Jays’ tale of woe).

Now, let’s just imagine (and it doesn’t take much) that the Leafs turn their fortunes around and become legitimate contenders.  Can you imagine the increased interest in Leafs’ season tickets?

And now for the “interesting” family law questions about those season tickets.

When married spouses separate they will have to value their “property” as at the Date of Separation (called “Valuation Date” in Ontario family law language).  Season tickets are ‘property’.

If one spouse owns season tickets and sometimes uses the tickets for business or marketing purposes or, if they have re-sold their tickets from time to time (of course in totally legal ways) or  if they have owned season tickets for several years, then interesting questions arise as to the worth of the tickets for the remainder of the season; and the value of the ‘right’ to purchase the season tickets in the coming years or even playoff tickets.

The legal concept of “value” comes into play in such a determination.  The “value” of the tickets may no longer simply be the face value of the tickets multiplied by the number of remaining games – much more sophisticated considerations may have to be made.  What could the tickets go for on the open market?  If the Leafs make it to the playoffs, then what would the additional value of playoff tickets be?  I guess it depends, in part, on how far the Leafs go in the playoffs…

If the separating spouses cannot agree on such matters as the value of the tickets, and they end up going to court over this (and presumably other) issues, then a court would be asked to determine the value of the season tickets as  “property”.   In doing so,  the court will rely on expert evidence from a valuator with professional experience and training in establishing the value of unique assets such as this.

One interesting principle that will come into play is that the valuator (and the court) must determine the value of the tickets as at the Valuation Date and the court and valuator cannot take into account events that occur after the Valuation Date in determining the value.   So the value may depend, in part, on at what point in the season the spouses separated?  Were any key players on the team injured at the time of separation, and how long were they expected to be on the injured list, etc, etc?

We have not even discussed who owns the tickets and therefore who gets to keep them.   In some cases it may be easy to establish ownership.  The sports team records may show that owner is in just one of the spouses name’s and it is that spouse who has paid for the season tickets each year. But what if the team’s records show both the husband and wife as owners?  Who gets to keep the tickets in that case?   Who owns the right to be on the list for season tickets in subsequent years?

As you can see, I have many more questions than I do answers.  This is because this situation has never come up in my practice or in the case law in Ontario, as far as I can determine.

Just think if you were a Green Bay Packers’ fan:   Apparently virtually every seat in their stadium is held by a season ticket owner and there is a waiting list with over 62,000 names of people wanting to have the right to purchase season tickets.  I imagine that one would pretty much have to wait for an existing season ticket holder to die before your name would move up the list.  Would some “wise” judge in Green Bay, Wisconsin  order divorcing spouses to “sell” their season tickets in order to determine their value for property division purposes. Or maybe that “wise” judge would order the separating spouses to share the season tickets and thus end up sitting next to each other for 3 hours every other weekend during the season.

With Super Bowl Sunday just around the corner and the Packers having a good chance at winning the championship, I imagine that Packers’ season tickets prices and the right to purchases season tickets in future years could go through the roof.   So let’s hope that there aren’t too many divorcing couples in Green Bay with the right to purchase season tickets next year, or, if there are, that they have contemplated how to divide up the tickets and reflected their arrangements in a Marriage Contract created at the time they bought their tickets.

Leafs, Raptors, Blue Jays and other sports spouses – take heart!