Ask Ron: "Does My Ex Get Half My House?"

A reader of my Blog recently posed the following question:

Q.  If my marriage lasted less than 6 months, is my Ex-wife entitled to half of my house?   She does not have a penny to her name, and has not made any contribution to the home.

A.  The answer is essentially “yes” – but there is a lot more to it.  Read on.

Under Ontario law, if you are married for any period of time and then decide to divorce, the provisions of the Family Law Act are automatically triggered.  This legislation provides the rules for how your respective assets are treated and divided up, including any assets that you each brought into the relationship.   And it does not matter how long you have been married – the basic rules are applied in the same way to every divorcing couple in the province.

As I have written previously about property division, those rules provide a complex and detailed calculation mechanism for determining both your Net Family Property (“NFP”) and that of your Ex – which incorporates the value of your assets, debts and other liabilities, gifts and inheritances, and the value of any property that you may have brought into the marriage.  All of these elements are incorporated into a calculation that equalizes your respective NFPs.

However, the matrimonial home (i.e. the one that you lived in together as a married couple) is dealt with in specific provisions of the Family Law Act, and as I’ve written in a previous blog post about division of the matrimonial home, it is subject to special status and treatment once you have separated as a first step towards divorce.  Even if your marriage was only a short-term one, once you choose to divorce you will still be entitled to retain title to the home that you brought into the relationship, but will be legally required to pay your Ex half of its value  (as determined on your separation date), as part of the NFP calculation. 

It does not matter how long you were married.  It does not matter whether you ever legally put your Ex on title to the property, or whether during the marriage she worked, had any money of her own, or made any contribution at all to the upkeep or maintenance of the home.  Rather, this outcome reflects the policy under Ontario law that marriage is a partnership, and that the matrimonial home that you shared during the marriage should be subject to special considerations.

So to address your question more specifically:  While it is not technically correct to say that your Ex will “get half your house”, she will indeed be entitled to half of the value of the matrimonial home your brought into the marriage, but it will be subject to various adjustments as dictated by the law as applied to the circumstances.   However — and this is important — with a short marriage like this one, the court will also consider your claim for what is know as an “unequal division“, by looking at whether applying the normal rule would be fair in the circumstances.

Have further questions about how the law relating to the matrimonial home works?   Shulman Law Firm is a Toronto-area firm of experienced Family Lawyers who can provide practical advice and effective representation relating to the steps and processes involved in separating and getting divorced in Ontario.   Contact us to set up a free consultation.

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