Property Division, Sharing & The Matrimonial Home

Rights and Responsibilities Regarding the Matrimonial Home in Ontario: Navigating the Legal Landscape

Written by Russell Alexander / (905) 655-6335

In Ontario, the matrimonial home holds a unique and often emotionally charged position in a divorce or separation. As of 2024, understanding your rights and responsibilities regarding the matrimonial home is crucial for anyone navigating the end of a marriage. This article explores the legal status of the matrimonial home in Ontario, how it is treated during divorce proceedings, and the conditions for sale or occupancy.

Understanding the Matrimonial Home in Ontario

  1. Definition: The matrimonial home is the family residence where the couple resided together before the separation. Unlike other assets, special rules apply to the matrimonial home under Ontario’s Family Law Act, regardless of who holds the title.
  2. Equal Possession Rights: Both spouses have an equal right to possession of the matrimonial home until it is sold or one party is granted exclusive possession by court order. This means that one spouse cannot unilaterally decide to sell the home or lock out the other.
  3. Impact on Property Division: The value of the matrimonial home is shared equally, regardless of who owned the home before the marriage or whose name is on the title. This can significantly impact the division of assets.

Legal Rights and Responsibilities

  1. Selling the Home: Both spouses must consent to sell the matrimonial home unless a court orders otherwise. If one spouse refuses to sell, the other may need to seek a court order to proceed with the sale.
  2. Exclusive Possession: One spouse can seek a court order for exclusive possession of the matrimonial home, even if they are not the legal owner. The court will consider various factors, including the best interests of any children involved and each spouse’s financial situation.
  3. Financial Responsibilities: Both spouses are generally responsible for the mortgage and other costs associated with the home until it is sold or one party is granted exclusive possession.

Navigating the Sale or Occupancy

  1. Agreement to Sell: If both parties agree to sell the home, they must also agree on how to divide the proceeds. This typically follows the property division rules, but specific arrangements can be made.
  2. Court-Ordered Sale: If one party is uncooperative, the other may petition the court to order the sale of the home. The court will consider various factors, including the needs of any children and the financial positions of both parties.
  3. Buying Out the Other Spouse: One spouse may choose to buy out the other’s share in the matrimonial home. This usually requires refinancing the mortgage and paying the other spouse their share of the home’s equity.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

Seek Legal Advice: The laws surrounding the matrimonial home in Ontario are complex. Consult with a family lawyer to understand your rights and explore your options.

Consider the Children: If children are involved, their needs and stability should be a priority in any decision made regarding the matrimonial home.

Be Prepared for Negotiation: Whether you’re planning to sell the home, buy out your spouse, or seek exclusive possession, be prepared for negotiation and possibly, court proceedings.

Understand Financial Implications: Be aware of the mortgage, tax implications, and other financial aspects of any decision regarding the matrimonial home.


The matrimonial home is more than a financial asset; it’s often a symbol of the life spouses built together. In Ontario, the legal framework provides both protections and obligations for spouses dealing with the matrimonial home during a separation or divorce.

Rick Peticca, Associate Lawyer

By understanding your rights and responsibilities and seeking the right legal and financial advice, you can navigate this complex aspect of your separation with greater confidence and clarity.

Remember, each decision you make regarding the matrimonial home should consider the broader implications for your financial and emotional future.

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.