Vaughan Family Lawyers Providing Advice on the Matrimonial Home

The matrimonial home is the property where the married spouses live, and which is owned by one or both spouses at the time of their separation. For many families, the matrimonial home is the largest of their assets. For this reason, the matrimonial home is treated differently than all other assets when dividing the family property after the marriage ends.

The experienced family lawyers at GDH Family Law understand the emotional and financial significance of the matrimonial home. We are knowledgeable about the laws surrounding this type of property and protect our client’s right to leave the marriage with their fair share of the matrimonial home. Our contemporary approach to family law allows us to offer bespoke, creative solutions to property disputes that meet the needs of our clients’ families and help them move forward with their lives.

Equal vs. Exclusive Possession of the Matrimonial Home

Both spouses have an equal right of possession to the matrimonial home, even where only one spouse owns the property. Equal possession means neither spouse can force the other out of the home. Additionally, one spouse cannot unilaterally sell or encumber the matrimonial home except by court order or with the other spouse’s consent.

After a married couple separates, one spouse can be given exclusive possession by court order or by a separation agreement between the parties.

Ontario’s Family Law Act requires a court to consider several factors before making an order for exclusive possession. These factors are:

  • The best interests of any affected children, including the disruption to their lives, as well as their views and preferences;
  • Any existing orders relating to family property, child support, or spousal support;
  • The financial positions of both spouses;
  • Any written agreement between the spouses;
  • The availability of any other suitable and affordable accommodation for the spouse who leaves the home; and
  • Any history of family violence by one spouse against the other spouse or the children.

Multiple Matrimonial Homes

It is important to note that in certain circumstances, a family may have more than one matrimonial home. A recreational property, such as a family cottage may qualify as a matrimonial home under the Family Law Act. The Act defines a matrimonial home as a property “ordinarily occupied” by the spouses. Courts have interpreted this to include a property where one or both spouses and their children regularly spent time together. An investment property used only to generate income (such as a rental property) does not generally qualify as a matrimonial home.

Some families will have a property used for both non-residential and residential purposes. For example, a family’s matrimonial home may be on a parcel of land used for a business, such as a farm. The Family Law Act provides that in such situations, only the portion of the property that “may reasonably be regarded as necessary to the use and enjoyment of the residence” is considered the matrimonial home.

The Matrimonial Home & Equalization

Each spouse has a right to share the value of the matrimonial home, regardless of which spouse owns it. Courts have recognized that the conflict between spouses leading up to their separation may have led them to live in separate homes. So long as the property in question was extensively used as the family home during the marriage, the court may find it still qualifies as the matrimonial home.

Sole Ownership of the Matrimonial Home

The matrimonial home is treated uniquely for the purposes of property division and equalization. Even if one spouse owned the home at the date of marriage, it does not qualify for a date of marriage deduction so long as it is still the couple’s matrimonial home when they separate.

Joint Ownership of the Matrimonial Home

When both spouses jointly own the matrimonial home, they must either:

  • Sell the house and split the sale proceeds; or
  • Transfer the house to one spouse, who will then purchase the other spouse’s share in the home.

If the spouses cannot agree on how to handle their jointly-owned matrimonial home, one spouse may apply to the court for an order directing the sale of the home.

Common Law Spouses & The Matrimonial Home

The concept of the matrimonial home does not apply to common law spouses. If one spouse holds the title to the family home, they will not ordinarily be required to share its value with the other spouse. In certain limited circumstances, the non-owning spouse may argue that they made contributions to the home and therefore should receive a portion of its increase in value.

Contact GDH Family Law in Vaughan for Advice on the Matrimonial Home

Understanding how the matrimonial home will be handled after a separation or divorce can be emotionally and legally complex. The compassionate divorce lawyers at GDH Family Law have extensive experience helping clients understand their entitlement to possession of their family as well as their right to share in its value. Our attentive team understands our clients’ needs and provides proactive, reliable legal advice to empower clients to make informed decisions for their families.

GDH Family Law is an innovative boutique family law firm located in Vaughan, Ontario. We represent clients through the surrounding areas, including Maple, Concord, Woodbridge, Markham, Kleinburg, Richmond Hill, Nobleton, Toronto, Newmarket, Aurora, Brampton, Caledon, Mississauga, Etobicoke, North York, Thornhill, and King City. For a free initial consultation on your family matter, contact us at 416-535-6944 or reach out online.