Property Division, Sharing & The Matrimonial Home

Division of Property and Assets in Ontario Divorces: Understanding Marital Assets and Division Rules

Written by Russell Alexander / (905) 655-6335

The division of property and assets is often one of the most complex and contentious aspects of a divorce in Ontario. As of 2024, understanding how this process works is crucial for anyone navigating a separation or divorce. This article aims to clarify what constitutes marital assets, how they are divided according to Ontario laws, and the particular considerations involved in this process.

Understanding Marital Assets in Ontario

Definition of Marital Assets: Marital assets, also known as family property, generally include all the property each spouse accumulates during the marriage. This can include the matrimonial home, cars, investments, and savings. Property owned before the marriage may also be subject to division if its value increased during the marriage.

Exclusions: Some assets are excluded from division, such as gifts or inheritances received during the marriage (unless they were used towards the matrimonial home). Personal items, like clothing and jewelry, are also typically excluded.

Matrimonial Home: Special rules apply to the matrimonial home in Ontario. Both spouses have equal rights to stay in the home upon separation, regardless of who is on the title. Its value is typically divided equally, even if one spouse owned the home before the marriage.

How Assets Are Divided

Equalization Payment: Ontario uses the equalization process to divide assets. This doesn’t necessarily mean physical division of assets but rather a calculation to ensure each spouse receives an equitable share of the marital property’s value. Each spouse calculates their net family property (NFP), which is the value of all their assets minus debts and other liabilities. The spouse with the higher NFP usually pays half the difference to the other spouse.

Negotiations and Agreements: Couples can agree to a different division of assets through a separation agreement. These agreements allow for flexibility but must be fair and comply with legal standards.

Complex Assets: Some assets, like businesses, pensions, and foreign property, can be particularly complex to value and divide. Expert appraisals and legal guidance are often necessary.

Special Considerations and Issues

Debts: Debts incurred during the marriage are generally shared equally. However, the responsibility for debts can be complicated, especially if one spouse was significantly more responsible for accruing them.

Date of Separation: The value of assets is typically calculated based on their worth on the date of separation, known as the valuation date. This date can sometimes be contentious.

Disclosure: Full financial disclosure is required in the division process. Failing to disclose assets or intentionally diminishing their value can have serious legal consequences.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

Seek Legal and Financial Advice: Given the complexities involved in dividing assets, consulting with legal and financial professionals is crucial. They can help ensure a fair and comprehensive division.

Keep Records: Maintain detailed records of all assets, debts, and their values. This can be crucial during negotiations and if any disputes arise.

Gia Williams, Associate Lawyer

Consider Mediation or Collaborative Law: These processes can provide a more amicable and cost-effective way to negotiate the division of assets, especially when both parties are willing to work together.

The division of property and assets in an Ontario divorce involves understanding what constitutes marital assets, how they are valued, and the rules governing their division. Navigating this process requires careful consideration, thorough documentation, and often, professional guidance. While the division can be complex, particularly for high-value or unusual assets, a clear understanding of your rights and obligations, combined with expert advice, can help ensure a fair and equitable outcome. As you move forward through this challenging process, remember that informed decisions and careful planning are key to securing a stable and positive future post-divorce.

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About the author

Russell Alexander

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