Property division for people who are married
Marriage is considered to be a partnership, with each spouse making equal, if different, contributions and sharing equally in the family’s property if the partnership ends. This includes property acquired during the years of the marriage that has been paid for by only one spouse or is registered in the name of only one spouse.
There is some property that is excluded from the equalization requirement, including inheritances and gifts.
Family property that must be divided upon marriage breakdown includes:
- house, cottage or other real estate
- cars and other vehicles
- personal items (clothing, books, jewellery)
- household items (furniture, appliances)
- money (bank accounts, RRSPs, investments)
Family assets and debts are totaled, and debts subtracted from assets to calculate “net family property,” which is then divided equally. This can be a complicated calculation, depending on the extent of the property and especially if there are differences of opinion between the two spouses about the value of items they own.
A claim for equalization of family property must be started within 6 years of the date of separation and 2 years of the date of divorce.
Property division for people who live in a common-law relationship
Common law relationships do not provide an automatic right to an equal sharing of the property.
People leave with what they brought in plus whatever they can prove they bought during the relationship. In order to receive a share of property accumulated over the course of the relationship, the common law spouse would have to prove to the court that she has made contributions, direct or indirect, to its value.
Direct contributions could include paying a share of the mortgage or for renovations or repairs to the home. Indirect contributions could include paying for utilities, household expenses or family vacations, raising the children or assisting in the family business.