Q. I loaned my boyfriend $4,000 to help him with expenses while we were living together. We recently broke up, and he now refuses to pay me back the money. Do I have a case?
Your issue is very common in Small Claims Court, though the answer is never simple.
The first question I would ask you is if you have anything in writing from your ex-boyfriend to prove the loan. Although I have seen such written agreements, typically when it comes to relationships, these agreements are done verbally.
Assuming there is no agreement in writing, do you have anything in writing to prove the loan? Perhaps you sent your ex-boyfriend an email which discusses the loan? If so, then that can be good evidence, or proof, that you made the loan.
If you have no such written communication, the next best thing is evidence that the money actually changed hands. For instance, can you show through bank or credit card statements that you provided the Defendant with the $4,000? Note, even if you can, he can certainly claim that the money was not for a loan, but at least you have something to work with.
Now, if you have no or minimal evidence, it is still possible to succeed in Small Claims Court if the judge finds you to be a credible witness at trial. This means that you will be asked to tell the Court about all the particulars of the loan, when it was made, for what purposes, etc. If a judge believes you, then you’re golden. However, don’t expect it to be easy because a judge will be on high alert when a case with little or no documentary evidence comes before him or her.
Bear in mind that you should not only be prepared to answer questions about your own case, but also questions from your ex-boyfriend (or his paralegal or lawyer) under cross examination. Of course, he will be attempting to undermine your claim that there was a loan, and in all likelihood will claim that all monies you provided to him during the course of the relationship were either gifts or part of monies that were shared between you and him.
Indeed, Small Claims Court judges are often persuaded by such arguments, particularly where the evidence is flimsy, and it seems that the case is more about an ex-girlfriend’s revenge then wanting repayment of a loan.
Of course, I am assuming from your question that you know where to locate your ex boyfriend. However, a common problem I encounter is that after a break-up, it is difficult to locate the offending party.
What can you do to avoid being duped by a future boyfriend? Here are a few tips:
a) Don’t loan your boyfriend significant sums of money! You should always be on guard for fraudsters “even” in the course of a relationship. If he keeps asking you for money, dump him!
b) Make a contract. If you truly feel you trust him and insist on lending money then draw up a written agreement and tell him it’s because you love him and want to save the issue from becoming a problem in the future. If he refuses, then that should be a warning to you.
c) Get his i.d. – In case you loan the money and then he runs off, you will need a way to track him down. Many times, a social insurance number and driver’s license can suffice so insist on obtaining this prior to making the loan.
By following the above tips, you can hopefully avoid what I refer to as the “Ex and Ohs” of relationships, i.e. “Oh no my Ex ran off with my money”!
In response to some readers’ queries, I would like to clarify for the readers that in this instance, the onus of proving that this was a gift and not a loan would fall on the ex-boyfriend as the recipient of the monies. This is based on the recent court decision of Colengelo v. Amore which can be found here http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2010/2010onsc5657/2010onsc5657.html. That said, my comments still apply because one must always strive to have the strongest evidence possible in case the ex-boyfriend is able to put doubt in the judge’s head that perhaps the money transferred was a gift.
The above is for general guidance and is not to be construed as specific legal advice for your particular case.