Property Division, Sharing & The Matrimonial Home

Do 20-Something Kids Need to Stay in the Matrimonial Home for “Stability”?

barefoot woman lying on couch with blanket covering her face

Common among parents these days is the complaint that their “kids” – meaning adult children over the age of 18 – are staying longer at home before moving out on their own, or worse, are returning home after finding that independent living or navigating the job market is tougher than they anticipated.

It begs the question of how much emotional and financial support young adults need (and expect) in the modern family context.

In a recent case the court had to consider whether kids in their 20s needed to remain in the luxurious former matrimonial home for “stability”, after their parents split and until a divorce trial could be held. (The question of whether for family law purposes they were considered “children of the marriage”, and therefore eligible for child support longer-term, would have to be determined at a later trial.)

The facts were these: After a 17-year marriage, the couple separated and brought a court motion to determine the question of how their $1.5 million matrimonial former home should be dealt with. Their three children – currently aged 19, 22 and 25 – were all still living in the home with the father. As the court described the situation: “there is unanimity of opinion that the children are accomplished, high functioning young men with goals and aspirations that their parents encourage and have to date supported financially and otherwise.”

During the marriage, the couple split their income, and the wife went on title as owner of the home. However the husband originally owned the land on which the home was built, had paid all the home maintenance and carrying costs throughout the marriage, and had invested $200,000 into renovations. It was still subject to a debt of about $600,000, and the husband would be seeking an equitable interest in the home at the pending divorce trial.   After a 2013 flood, the couple received insurance funds for repair, but the amount remained unspent because they were unable to agree on how those insurance funds should be spent, and when.

Against this background the wife, who had moved to the Cayman Islands to pursue studies at a veterinary college, applied to the court for an order to have the matrimonial home repaired, listed and sold.   Although the husband was not opposed to the sale at some future date, he resisted selling it now since he was adamant that the home provided security and stability for the children.

The court began by observing:

“The youngest child will become an adult in November of this year; the older two are in their twenties now. Upon the evidence currently available, whether or for how long these young men will continue to live in the matrimonial home is speculative at best.”

The court then pointed out that although the husband earned $320,000 per year, his expenses for housing himself and his sons in the existing home would likely not be satisfied by his remaining (though still substantial) income after he had paid interim spousal support to the wife pending trial.

More to the point, there was no realistic need to maintain that particular house for the stability of his adult or near-adult children, nor was there any reason to delay the repair and sale of the home until trial.   To do so would be to merely add time to the already-lengthy process of translating the asset into funds that could be allocated by the parties in the proportion yet-to-be adjudicated at trial.

The court ordered that within 30 days the parties should agree on how to spend the insurance proceeds to repair the home, failing which the wife would have the authority to deal with the insurance and repairs, and choose an agent with which to list. The court added:

“If an acceptable offer to purchase the property is received, the [wife] shall offer the respondent the opportunity to sign as a spouse on the acceptance of the offer. If the [husband] refuses to sign the offer before it expires, the [wife] is authorized hereby to proceed with the sale without the [husband’s] consent.”

For the full text of the decision, see:

Goodman v. Goodman, 2014 ONSC 3466

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.