How is marital property divided in Ontario?

When Ontario residents divorce and divide their property, under the law, both parties’ contributions to the marriage are recognized. Property acquired by the couple over the course of the marriage has to be divided equally between the two.

It’s important to factor in any changes in the value of property. When it increases over the course of the marriage, the accretion must also be shared, and this may be paid out to one spouse in an equalization payment.

Excluded property like inheritances and gits are not subject to these rules unless they were spent on the purchase of a marital home.

Pensions have to be valuated and divided as well, according to the stipulations of the Family Law Act and/or the Pension Benefits Act. The plan administrator is responsible for attaching a value to the plan, thus sparing spouses the onus of hiring an actuary for this task.

The marital home is shared equally by both parties, with either one having the right to remain in it unless ordered by the court to vacate the premises. As such, under the law neither may rent, encumber, sell or sublet it without first obtaining permission from the other party. This applies even when the home is only owned by one of the spouses.

When divorcing, spouses have the right to determine the outcome of their property settlement, but failing that, may use mediation or arbitration to reach accord. The courts will also adjudicate matters when other options are not feasible or have been attempted without satisfactory resolution of the issues.

A family lawyer familiar with the Ontario courts can advise people of the best course of action for their particular situations.

Source: Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, “Division of Property,” accessed July 15, 2016

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