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Any property used by married spouses at the date of separation as a family home is a “matrimonial home” under the Family Law Act. A matrimonial home is special and treated differently than any other property belonging to married spouses.  The definition of a matrimonial home is set out in section 18 of the Family Law Act: “Every property in which a person has an interest and that is or, if the spouses have separated, was at the time of separation ordinarily occupied by the person and his or her spouse as their family residence is their matrimonial home.”

It is possible for married spouses to have any number of matrimonial homes including a primary residence, a cottage, a ski chalet, and so on. If a property is a matrimonial home, then not only is it impossible to claim an exclusion for any inherited or gifted asset invested in that home but, if the same property was owned at the date of marriage, then the owner may not claim a deduction for having brought the value of the property into the marriage.

If a spouse owns a home worth $500,000 on the date of marriage and the parties continue to occupy the same property at the date of separation, then he or she cannot claim a deduction for having brought $500,000 into the marriage.  However, if her spouse owns an investment portfolio worth $500,000 at the date of marriage, that asset will be deducted from his or her net worth on separation.  Similarly, if the spouse owned the $500,000 home at the date of marriage but the parties moved to a new home during the marriage, then the spouse is permitted to take a $500,000 date of marriage deduction in the equalization calculation.

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