Family assets, division of property and equalization
When a married couple separates, they must share any increase in their money or property that happened during the marriage. They also each have an equal right to continue to live in the home they were living in together. It does not matter which spouse’s name is on the deed or the lease.
The term “property” may include a variety of items, such as:
your home, furniture and other contents of your home, other real estate, pensions from employment
Canada or Quebec Pension Plan credits, RRSPs, Investments, bank accounts, cash, pets.
These rules do not apply to common-law (unmarried) couples. If a common-law couple separates, each spouse usually keeps his or her own money and property and they divide things that they own together. A common-law spouse may sometimes be able to claim a share of the other spouse’s property or money, but this is not an automatic right as it is with legally married spouses. You may be entitled to a payment from your spouse to pay you back for a direct or indirect contribution to property that he or she owns. These claims are referred to as trust claims.
Pensions are also part of a married couple’s shared property. On Jan. 1, 2012, the law changed in how it deals with the value of pensions to make it easier for divorcing couples.
As of January 1, 2012, pension plan members who have to pay their former spouse a settlement based on the value of their pension plan will be able to make some or all of the payment from the pension plan itself. The pension plan administrator will also now be responsible for valuing the pension plan so that spouses do not have to hire an actuary to do this for them.
Anna Boulman will explain all these factors and help you understand them and also how they might be used to best structure your separation agreement or a court order.
1. For more information about the property division laws in Ontario, see the publication: Separation and Divorce or Death of a Spouse: Property Division
Living together in a marriage-like relationship, but without getting married, is often called “cohabitation” or “living common-law”.
The law mostly treats common-law couples the same as married couples, except when it comes to property division and inheritance.