Hi, I am Daphna Schwartz of Feldstein Family Law group. I am speaking today about the importance of cooperation between spouses for an easy transition with respect to the matrimonial home.
After we successfully enter into a separation agreement and complete our reporting letter, the lawyer’s job is often done. The client is then on his or her own to take over and put into play what has been agreed to. For many, this is a daunting task. For example, if RRSP rollovers are to be effected, speak with your accountant or bank representative. There are professionals available to help you in many ways.
What happens, however, when the spouses agree that one of them will remain in the matrimonial home and hold off on selling it or transferring it for a period of time, whether it be one year or 5 years, until the children complete school? On paper this may sounds simple, however, in practice in can be challenging. Cooperation between the spouses is essential. For example, the husband has paid the bills since the parties were married, all the utility companies have his name as the account holder, bills such as Powerstream, Enbridge, water bill, property taxes, 407, mortgage, and many more. If his name alone is listed then these companies will not even speak with the wife without his authorization.
Where the parties continue to have a good relationship, the non-resident spouse should immediately inform each utility company and service provider that they can speak directly with the other spouse. They can either change account holders to the resident spouse, or they can have payments automatically paid by pre authorized payments from other spouse’s bank accounts.
This situation also occurs during the negotiation process when one spouse moves out, pays the required support and the resident spouse is required to pay the bills.
I suggest having this discussion at the outset and having the proper steps taken immediately. The often new and additional responsibility of the banking and payment of bills should be dealt cooperatively to help transition the resident spouse.
Other challenging issues come up such as the Line of Credit secured against the home, other debts and joint credit cards, who is responsible for the payments and how to ensure that the spouse responsible will in fact make the payments. For troubling and challenging issues, speak with your lawyer and obtain their advice.
Separation is stressful for both parties; anything that can be done to ease the transition is a positive step in the process.