What Happens to the Matrimonial Home in Divorce?

Matrimonial Home in Divorce

The matrimonial home is most couples’ biggest asset. That’s why understanding how Ontario law regards this asset is so important.

The following is a description of how Ontario law regards the matrimonial home when divorcing couples go to divide their property.


What Is the Matrimonial Home?

The matrimonial home, in Ontario, is a legal term set forth in the Matrimonial Property Act. It is the property that was a couple’s primary residence up to and including the time of separation.

If one member of the couple purchased the home prior to the onset of the marriage, the home is still considered the matrimonial home if the couple lived in it together. This definition extends to other properties that the couple used together and both spent time at.

The definition is subject to change. For instance, if one member of the couple retires, that person may wish to spend the majority of their time living in a vacation cottage that the couple owns. The primary residence can lose its designation as a matrimonial home in this case.

How Is the Matrimonial Home Different from Other Assets?

When couples divorce in Ontario, each person tallies up their family net worth, and the person with the higher figure must make an equalization payment to the other party. Ordinarily, some property is exempt, such as personal inheritance.

Matrimonial homes factor a bit differently from other properties in two key respects:

  1. If one person owned the home before, they cannot subtract the pre-marriage value of the home as a separate asset. The entire value of the matrimonial home counts as part of your net family property.
  2. If you use personal assets to improve the matrimonial home, those assets are no longer exempt from equalization and must count toward the family’s net property value,

Matrimonial Home After Separation

An issue of concern to many people is who has the right to possess a matrimonial home after separation. Under Ontario law, each member of the couple has an equal right to possession up until the court makes its final ruling, and the couple is divorced.

A soon-to-be-ex spouse must apply to the court prior to that date if they want exclusive possession of the matrimonial house. It may be granted if it’s in the best interest of the children to continue living there. The occupying spouse must then pay rent to the other spouse.

Do you have questions about how to handle property division during a divorce? Schedule a free 15 minute consultation with one of ClearWay Law’s experienced family lawyers. We provide compassionate consult to individuals going through all stages of this difficult process.

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