5 Things That Make the Matrimonial Home Unique – Part 2
I have written recently about how in Ontario it’s actually possible to have more than one matrimonial home. That followed on a more general post written some time ago about the matrimonial home’s unique nature under Ontario family law.
It’s never a bad time to revisit the specific elements that make the matrimonial home special, this time with a focus on the court’s right to make Orders in connection with it.
1) Special status. The matrimonial home has special “protected” status under Ontario law. As such, there are certain things that spouses can and cannot do. Most notably, one spouse is not allowed to unilaterally do any of the following, without the other spouse’s consent:
• Lock the other spouse out of the matrimonial home;
• Sell the home;
• Mortgage or re-mortgage the home.
2) Court can make Orders. Depending on the nature and objective of the family litigation, an Ontario court is entitled to make an Orders that can affect your spousal rights to the matrimonial home. The court’s powers in this regard arise under the authority granted to it pursuant to the Ontario Family Law Act, the Family Law Rules, and the Courts of Justice Act.
3) Scope and nature of court Orders. There are a variety of Orders that a family court can make in connection with the matrimonial home, including an Order that only one spouse is entitled to be in possession of (i.e. live in) it, and an Order that one spouse may sell, mortgage or encumber it.
The last type of Order may become necessary in a case where (for various reasons) it is prudent for the home to be sold, mortgaged or otherwise encumbered, or where it makes sense in all the circumstances that one spouse has possession, but where the spouses cannot agree. The court in such cases has the power to make the necessary Order.
4) Mandated considerations. Needless to say, courts don’t take their powers lightly; whenever a court is poised to make an Order that deprives one spouse of his or her rights or interest in the matrimonial home, the court will consider a broad array of well-established factors and considerations. For example, if a court is considering making an Order giving one spouse exclusive possession of the matrimonial home, the court is obliged under the Family Law Act to take into account the following:
• The best interests of the children who may be impacted by the order. Under this heading, the court must consider 1) the possible disruptive effects on the child of a move to other accommodation; and 2) the child’s views and preferences, if they can be reasonably ascertained.
• Any existing court Orders relating to family property, including existing Orders for support;
• The financial position of both spouses;
• Any written agreement between the parties;
• The availability of other suitable and affordable accommodation; and
• Any violence committed by a spouse against the other spouse or children.
5) Other rights not suspended. Finally, the fact that a family court might be entitled to make an Order in connection with the matrimonial home does not mean that other litigation has to cease; a third party (i.e. not either of the spouses) might have rights in connection with a matrimonial home that can be enforced as usual. To give the most common example, there may be a mortgage on the home, which the bank can realize upon if it goes into default.
Do you have questions about the court’s rights to make Orders affecting the matrimonial home? Feel free to contact our office.
At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit our main site.