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Know Your Rights: Making Sense of Divorce and Separation

The law treats marriage as an equal economic partnership in every way. There may some exceptions in a case-by-case analysis. Generally speaking, if no exceptions apply when marriage ends, the value of the property acquired in matrimony and the increased value of the property brought into a marriage will be divided equally between both parties. As previously mentioned, there are exceptions to this rule. The exceptions include and are not limited to, a marriage contract, plus common law and cohabitation agreements.

The Family Residence or Matrimonial Home

The law also provides that you and your spouse have an equal right to stay in the family residence and/or matrimonial home. If you separate, you will have to decide who will continue to live there. In the absence of an agreement on the issue, the residence/home will most likely be sold.
Division of Property

If you were married, when you and your partner separate, you will have to divide the property that you had and shared as a family. Property means anything owned, such as a home, car, personal and household items, pensions, bank accounts and any other investments. Property also includes debts. Debts can include a mortgage on a house, a car lease, and any type of loan.

The value of some property can change over time, such as land, a business, bank accounts, and investments. When dividing family property, the property value is usually based on the amount of money the property was worth on the date the partners separated and knew they would not reconcile. When partners separate, there are legal rules for dividing the property that they had during their relationship.

Common Law Relationships

The rules are different if you were not married but living together in a common law relationship when addressing property issues. Common law partners sometimes assume that if they separate, they have an automatic entitlement to half of the assets accumulated during the relationship. But the reality is that they do not nor have any automatic right to property like married couples do under the Family Law Act.

The rules for dividing family property can be very complicated. If you are in this situation, it is recommended to seek legal advice from a lawyer whether you were married and separating, or in a common law relationship and parting ways.

Financial Support

Regarding financial support, Ontario’s family laws dictate that you may be entitled to financial support for yourself and your children when your marriage and/or relationship ends.

In some cases, the law requires a person to pay spousal support to their former spouse. This can apply if you were legally married, in a common law relationship with children, or in a common law relationship for at least 3 years without children. An array of other factors come into play and must be examined too. These include the length of relationship, the roles of the parties during the relationship years, the age of the parties, and the mental and physical health of the parties.

Family Responsibility Office

You are entitled to child support if your children live with you on a full or part-time basis if your spouse earns a higher income than yours. The person who pays is called the "payor”. Spousal and child support orders in Ontario may be enforced by the Family Responsibility Office or FRO.

The FRO will collect support if the payor lives in Canada, the United States and many other countries. If the person who has to pay lives in a country that has not signed an agreement with the government of Ontario, the FRO may not be able to assist you.

In cases of separation or divorce it is important to discuss your rights and options with a lawyer. Here at Sicotte Guilbault, our team can provide the expert guidance you require during challenging and emotional times.

by: Marie-Hélène Godbout - Lawyer
posted on: December 20, 2019