Cottage season is fast approaching. I sometimes get asked about vacation properties and how they are dealt with upon separation and divorce.
As I have written before, a couple’s “matrimonial home” is a legally-defined concept, and is subject to specific treatment under the Ontario Family Law Act in the event that the couple decide to split up. It is defined by law as being the home that is “ordinarily occupied” by the couple as their family residence at the time of separation; both spouses have equal right to possession of this home, and its full value must be equally shared once after separation, regardless of whether both spouses are on title.
Identifying a couple’s matrimonial home is usually straightforward, since most couples own only a single residence in which they live out their day-to-day lives. However, for those lucky families that also own cottages, mobile homes or vacation homes, the question can arise as to whether such second homes will also fall under Act’s special rules.
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In Ontario, there is no set percentage of time that a vacation home must be occupied in order to qualify, nor is there any universal rule to be applied. Rather, the law simply provides that as long as the second home also falls within the “matrimonial home” definition (i.e. is “ordinarily occupied … as a family residence”) then it can qualify and be subject to equal division upon separation.
This will depend on the facts, and must be decided on a case-by-case basis.
At Shulman Law Firm, we can assess your particular situation and advise as to whether any recreational properties that you own may fall under the matrimonial home designation. Contact us for a consultation.