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Murdoch v Murdoch[]

Murdoch claimed for one-half of the interest in the family ranch. She worked on lands with her husband in order to earn the money that was used to purchase the ranch, but it was registered in his name. Some payments came from her bank account; and she had worked as a waitress to contribute to the purchase of the ranch but this money went into the husband's account as well. She also cared for the ranch entirely when he was away, which happened for long periods at a time. When the marriage ended, she claimed for one half of the interest in the family ranch. Irene was unsuccessful at trial and at the Court of Appeal.


  1. Do wives have any interest in matrimonial homes?


Appeal dismissed.


Martland, writing for the majority, finds that the wife's labor was not beyond what is ordinarily required of a ranch wife, and therefore this does not grant her any special interest in the land. They say that the only way she could have any interest in it is if a resulting trust was created. However, this could only have been created if she helped to pay for the property, or if there was a common intention at the time of the purchase to create a trust for her half of the interest, even though title was in her husband's name. The majority find that she did not help pay, and that there was no common intention. Therefore, there could be no resulting trust and the wife had no property in the land that she had worked on for 25 years.

In the dissent, Laskin claimed that the court did not need to examine the intentions of the parties to create a trust. He says that the court has the ability to create constructive trusts to prevent unjust enrichment – this is a power afforded in equity. He states that it is clear here that the wife contributed heavily to the property, and that the husband benefited on her behalf – therefore the court should construct a trust that would allow her to benefit in proportion to her contributions.


Resulting trusts can only be created when two parties both pay at the time of purchase, despite title only being registered in one of their names, or when there is a common intention at the time to create a trust interest for the party whose name is not registered.


Laskin's ideas about constructive trusts were eventually adopted by the Court, however they were only dissenting opinions in this case.