In Ontario, married spouses are expected to equalize the value of all of the property that they acquired during their marriage, with certain specific exceptions, which are discussed below.
Property Owned At Marriage
Most property that a married spouse has at the date of marriage is not shared with his or her spouse if the marriage ends. However, any increase in the value of property that a spouse owns at the date of marriage will be shared. The family home is an exception to this general rule. To determine whether the property that you owned at the date of marriage is shareable, you should consult with your family lawyer.
Inheritances, Gifts, Legal Settlement or Awards
Specified property – including some gifts, inheritances and settlements or awards from specific legal claims – is not shareable if a marriage ends. A good family lawyer will be sure to inquire as to whether you possess property of this kind. Our family lawyers will assist you in determining which items of your property should be excluded from sharing.
The Family Home
The family home is generally referred to as the “matrimonial home,” for Family Law purposes. In most circumstances 100% of the value of the family home is shared by married spouses if their marriage ends. This is generally the case whether or not:
- one spouse owned the family home at the date of marriage;
- some, or all, of the value of the family home arose by way of a gift or inheritance; or
- one spouse contributed much more to the value of the family home than did the other.
You should consult with your family lawyer to determine whether your home, or homes, can be defined as matrimonial homes, or whether they should receive different treatment.
When a marriage ends, generally, one spouse cannot compel the other spouse to leave the matrimonial home, without the consent of both spouses or a Court Order. Similarly, neither spouse can sell or borrow against the matrimonial home without the consent of the other or a Court order.
Our family lawyers can assist you in managing the costs of the matrimonial home while you and your spouse determine how it will be dealt with in your final settlement. We can assist you in determining whether it is best to keep the home, transfer it to your spouse or sell it. If you have other homes or properties we can assist you in allocating those properties between you and your spouse and assessing any tax concerns in relation to these properties.
Complex property issues are best handled by a lawyer with specific expertise in the area of Family Law. The family lawyers of Bair Family Law are skilled in addressing challenging, complex or unusual property issues.
Pensions, Businesses, Employment Benefits
Surprisingly, people frequently overlook the most significant assets possessed by them or their spouses when consulting with their family lawyer. An able family lawyer will work to ensure that all significant property is identified.
Pension – An employment pension may be one of the most valuable assets held by either spouse. A pension must generally be valued by the pension plan administrator. If a spouse of a pension holder is entitled to a property settlement, most pension plans can now divide some or all of the value of the pension between the spouses, in satisfaction of some or all of the property settlement. However, you must determine whether this method of payment is available to you and whether it suits your needs and requirements.
Business – If you own a business, or if your spouse owns a business, there will be increased complexity to the evaluation of your property rights. The valuation of business interests can be costly. Our family lawyers will help you to evaluate reasonable and cost-effective options for the settlement of business issues, while ensuring minimum disruption to the day-to-day operations and productivity of the business.
Employment Benefits – Employment benefits of substantial value, such as severance packages or retiring allowances, are frequently overlooked. An able family lawyer will work to ensure that all significant property is identified and secured.