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Tick, Tock: What’s the Legal Deadline for Trying to Set Aside a Separation Agreement?

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Tick, Tock: What’s the Legal Deadline for Trying to Set Aside a Separation Agreement?

In a recent case called F.K. v. E.A. the court was asked to rule on a novel question: If a spouse wants a court order setting aside his or her signed separation agreement as invalid, what is the deadline for applying? And when does it begin to run?

The couple began their relationship in 2000, and the husband proposed in 2004. The wedding itself was hastily-planned over a period of less then 30 days, and took place in June of 2005. Against that background, the couple entered into what they called a “Prenuptial Agreement” based on a template that the wife found on the internet. It was witnessed by a mutual friend. In it, the couple agreed that each of them:

1) Waived the right to claim spousal support from each other, and

2) Would remain separate as to property, and not be subject to an equalization of Net Family Property.

The Agreement also purported to confirm in writing two events that did NOT actually happen, namely:

1) That the parties had provided fair and reasonable financial disclosure to each other before signing, and

2) That both of them retained their own lawyer and received independent legal advice.

The wife later explained that they did not bother “going through the motions” to fulfil these two duties because the Agreement was wholly uncontentious: Both before and after the wedding they had conducted themselves with financial independence; the Agreement merely confirmed and documented that agreed status.

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Unfortunately, the spouses split in October of 2012, after 7 years of marriage. The wife gave the husband $1,600 to help with first and last months’ rent, but made it clear he could expect nothing further from her.

He then went to a lawyer to discuss his legal options, and explained the lack of legal advice and financial disclosure in particular. Although his lawyer advised that the Agreement was “not worth the paper it was written on”, the husband took no concrete steps at that time.

A full five years later, in 2017, he applied to the court to have the Agreement set aside. In addition to its other shortcomings impacting validity, he claimed it was signed after the wife issued an ultimatum; this left him feeling rushed and in a state of duress, he said.

The wife countered by stating the husband was simply out of time to have the Agreement set aside. She said this type of claim was subject to a two-year limitation period set by provincial legislation, and that the husband had failed to take any steps with the court within that deadline. She asked the court to grant her summary judgment.

The court addressed the various legal arguments. First, it concluded that husband’s bid to set the Agreement aside was indeed tantamount to a legal “claim”, and was theoretically subject to the general two-year deadline. The more pressing question, however, was precisely when the clock on that two-year period began to run.

In law, this “discoverability” threshold was the point at which the husband knew or ought to have known that:

1) He had suffered some loss, and

2) A legal proceeding was the appropriate method for trying to redress it.

In this case, that point was back in 2012, when the husband first attended his lawyer’s office post-separation.

At that point, he knew there was some potential legal issue with the validity of the Agreement and the circumstances in which it was signed, based on the advice from his lawyer. He also knew he could expect “nothing further” from the wife after separation, beyond the $1,600 in rent money, and that all other financial issues were off-the-table. So he knew in 2012 that he was facing a potential loss, and he knew that a legal claim would be the only way to potentially recover it.

Since it was now 7 years past that discoverability point, the husband was too late to bring his claim to set the Agreement aside.

As a last-ditch argument, the husband had also asked for special forbearance in the circumstances: The law should not be applied to him, since his case was the first time in all the Ontario jurisprudence where a claim to set aside a marriage contract was being foreclosed by the two-year deadline.

But the court rejected this argument too. The husband’s error or ignorance about the limitation period did not stop it from running, it said. All citizens are presumed to know the “law of the land”, and it applied equally to his situation even if the husband’s thwarted claim was the “test case”.

Since the husband was out of time to bring his claim, there was no genuine issue for trial. The court granted the wife’s application for summary judgment.

For the full text of the decision, see:

F.K. v. E.A., 2019 ONSC 3707 (CanLII),

How To: Make a Valid Separation Agreement

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 us at RussellAlexander.com

Divorce Information Centre – New Section

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Divorce Information Centre announces an additional resource today titled, Separation – The Beginning of the End to provide access to information including:

Differences Between Separation and Divorce in Ontario


 

Wednesday’s Video Clip: Differences Between Separation and Divorce in Ontario

A separation occurs when one or both spouses decide to live apart with the intention of not living together again. Once you are separated, you may need to discuss custody, access and child support with your spouse. You may also need to work out issues dealing with spousal support and property.

To legally end your marriage, you need a divorce, which is an order signed by a judge under the federal law called the Divorce Act

This video reviews ome of the issues to consider.

Ontario Divorce Law: Why Collaborative Practice Might be Right for You? Wednesday’s Video Clip

 

 

Ontario Divorce Law: Why Collaborative Practice Might be Right for You? Wednesday’s Video Clip

 

In this video, Divorce Lawyer Abi Adeusi, introduces the concepts of collaborative practice and many of the benefits this process offers couples going through a separation and divorce in Ontario.

Wednesday’s Video Clip: The Need for a Support System

 

Wednesday’s Video Clip: The Need for a Support System

In this short video Russell Alexander discusses the importance of having a support system in place when you go through a divorce.
 
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 us at  www.RussellAlexander.com

5 Things That Make the Matrimonial Home Unique

5 Things That Make the Matrimonial Home Unique


In Ontario, once a marriage ends the property-division provisions of the Family Law Act are triggered and property is divided essentially in equal portions between the spouses, subject to certain rules and exceptions. One of those exceptions relates to the matrimonial home.
There are several aspects that make the matrimonial home unique.

1. The “matrimonial home” is strictly defined by the Act.


The term refers to any residence that is owned and “ordinarily occupied” by the spouses and their family on the day of separation. Provided it is a family residence, this can include any type of housing including condominiums and mobile homes. Note that there can be more than one matrimonial home: as long as it meets the legislative definition, even a second home such as a frequently-used family cottage can constitute a matrimonial home which is subject to the Act’s special rules.

2. Original ownership of the home becomes irrelevant after marriage.

If a spouse brings a home with them into the marriage and that home becomes the family residence, then the law deems it to be the matrimonial home, even though that spouse held title and was the home’s registered owner prior to marriage.

3. Once a home is designated a matrimonial home, both spouses are equally entitled to possession of it upon separation.


Once the spouses separate, neither of them can legally exclude the other from the matrimonial home, no matter who owned the home prior to marriage.

4. The matrimonial home is treated differently when dividing assets on separation.


Under the Family Law Act, the full value of a matrimonial home must be shared upon separation. This forms an exception to the normal rule that applies to the division of other matrimonial property, i.e. that on separation each spouse is entitled to deduct the marriage-date value of any property he or she brought into the marriage.

5. A matrimonial home can only be sold if both spouses consent.


If one spouse attempts to sell the home without the consent of the other, then any purported purchaser will take the property subject to the legal interest of the second spouse, or the transaction may be set aside by a court in the right circumstances. This same rule applies to an attempt by one spouse to mortgage or otherwise encumber the home without the knowledge or consent of the other.

If a consensus cannot be reached, then either spouse may apply to the court for an order that the home be sold.

More information about how the law treats the matrimonial home can be found at www.russellalexander.com.

5 Things to Consider When Parenting During a Divorce

Divorce can be a painful experience and parents may find it difficult to respond to the needs of their children, for extra emotional support and attention. To help your children cope with divorce, you need to learn to manage your own feelings and new circumstances. Like many other parents in similar circumstances, you can move forward and help your children move forward too.

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10 Things You Should Know About Child Support

The parent with custody of a child has the main responsibility for the day-to-day care of the child and has most of the ordinary expenses of raising the child. The other parent should help with those expenses by paying money to the parent with custody. This is called child support.

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