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In Ontario, a separation is when two people who have been living together as either married or common-law decide to end their relationship and live apart. However, in some instances the two individuals may not necessarily need to live in separate dwellings. The courts recognize that due to financial reasons, a couple may be considered separated even if they are living under the same roof and there are conditions that need to be met in this instance. 

A divorce on the other hand is when the court officially ends a marriage and their legal status gets changed from married to single. There is also a difference between a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce. For example, a contested divorce occurs when spouses dispute issues relating to the separation or divorce. Whereas an uncontested divorce occurs when issues related to the separation have been settled before a court application requesting the divorce has been started. 

How does property get divided after a separation or divorce in Ontario?

The Family Law Act governs how property gets divided in Ontario in addition to regulating the rights of spouses and dependants with respect to property, support, inheritance, prenuptial agreements, separation agreements and other important aspects of family law. After a couple have decided to end their relationship, their shared property can be divided. In most cases, if you are married then debts incurred collectively may be divided as well. 

Property may also include but is not limited to:

  • Bank accounts
  • Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs)
  • Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs)
  • Home(s) and personal belongings
  • Investments
  • Pension plans 
  • Cars
  • Pets
  • Insurance plans

There are many nuances in family law when it comes to dividing property. In fact, this part of family law is typically the most contentious part during divorce proceedings. To safeguard and protect your rights, we recommend you consult with a lawyer on this topic if you are about to separate or file for divorce. 

How does debt get divided after a separation or divorce in Ontario?

Debts may also include but are not limited to:

  • Loans
  • Mortgages
  • Lines of credit
  • Credit card debt

In Ontario, unless both parties have a marriage contract/prenuptial agreement or have agreed to other divisional terms – debt is typically split evenly if both individual names are on the account. However, debts assigned only to your name are considered your debt and not communal debt. In the cases of financial abuse, there may be even more exceptions. We recommend you consult with one of our divorce lawyers for legal advice on this topic.

What are the exceptions to equalization in Ontario?

There are some exceptions that allow one spouse to keep property they own and this is commonly referred to as excluded property. Examples of excluded property may include:

  • Inherited property (other than the matrimonial home) or property that was gifted to you
  • Funds receive from insurance payouts for the death of someone or for injuries 
  • Property that you and your spouse agreed to exclude through a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement
  • Investments
  • Pension contributions 

Additionally, if a couple decides to not divide their assets equally out of preference, the law refers to this as the unequal division of net family property. In a situation like this, you need to demonstrate why equal division is not an option to the court. There are also other exceptions if deceit, spousal abuse and other bad faith issues are involved. 

For legal advice on what constitutes excluded property we recommend you consult with one of our family lawyers. 

Book a consultation with our Ontario divorce lawyers 

At Gelman & Associates – our team of experienced divorce lawyers have been helping Ontarians with their divorces and separation matters for over 20 years. We take the time to listen to the needs of our clients in order to deliver the highest level of legal representation and resolve matters expeditiously. 

If you or a loved one need legal assistance with respect to your divorce – contact our law firm to book a consultation with a member of our legal team. While our main office is located in North York – we also have consultation offices in downtown Toronto, Aurora, Grimsby, Barrie, Mississauga, Scarborough and Whitby which require you to book an appointment with us beforehand. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team.

Please be advised that this article contains legal information and not legal advice. Consult with a lawyer about the specific facts in your matter to determine what is legally advisable. 

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