Information About Property Division
When it comes to dividing the assets and debts that you have built during your relationship, the rules and approach are different depending on whether you are married or in a common-law relationship.
If you are married, the principle is simple:
- Account for all property acquired during marriage.
- Less most property that you brought into the marriage.
- Determine the total value and divide the value of your marital property in two.
Most property that you brought with you into the marriage belongs to you. Complications can arise from:
- Value: Some of the property may be difficult to value, such as vehicles that have depreciated, personal items and complex assets such as a family-owned business, stock options and international property.
- Exceptions: Inheritances and gifts made to one spouse by a third party are generally not included in the total. The value of your family home may be split evenly, no matter who owned it prior to the marriage and regardless of inheritance.
- Dates: Your date of separation is important, as any property you have lost after separation may complicate the equation.
Our law firm has a unique and long-standing history as one of the more successful family firms in the area. We strive to deliver the best results possible based on your unique circumstances. While the property division rules may seem simple, many nuances must be considered. Our experience allows us to consider your unique situation when evaluating, assessing and dividing assets in a way that protects your financial health and future.
At Williams Family Lawyers, we are recognized across the Greater Toronto Area for our ability to handle complex, multifaceted and high-asset property division issues. We can help you with issues involving capital gains, tax implications, pensions, the division of your business and business investments, stock assets and more.
When an Even Split Is Not the Best Option
Judges are typically required to divide property 50/50. If a 50/50 division is not ideal in your case — particularly if you have business holdings or significant income tax implications that need to be considered — you and your spouse can come to a different agreement through court alternatives such as mediation or collaborative law.
We can assist you in determining the best path for your unique circumstances, considering options that reduce the amount of time, energy and expense you invest.
Common-Law Status Does Not Imply Common Property
Common-law couples do not have the same rules for division of property; they are assumed to own only assets and debts that are legally theirs. If vehicles, businesses and other major assets are only in one party's name, the presumption is that the other party has no legal claim to them. Similarly, furniture and other household belongings are considered the property of the person who bought them, not shared property.
This does not mean that common-law spouses have no rights. If you contributed to the property — for example, by working at your spouse's small business or by helping to pay for the mortgage — we can argue that you should be compensated for your contributions. You may also have a cohabitation agreement that spells out how your property should be divided, or choose to make your own property division decisions outside of the courtroom.