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Hello, my name is Daphna Schwartz and I am a lawyer with the Feldstein Family Law Group.
Today, I would like to discuss how Ontario family law views the institution of marriage, which will determine what you and your spouse are entitled to if your marriage breaks down.
As a family law lawyer, I see first-hand that no two marriages are exactly alike. Couples arrange their lives and their relationships in the way that suits their personalities, goals, and circumstances.
That being said, Ontario’s Family Law Act takes a very specific view of marriage. For the purposes of the division of marital property in particular, all marriages are the same.
The Family Law Act describes marriage as a “form of partnership”, founded on equal contribution. Specifically, it says that “inherent in the marital relationship there is equal contribution, whether financial or otherwise.” The assumed equal contribution to the marriage is what entitles both spouses to share equally in the profits of the marriage, or the “net family property.”
You may not think that this idea of “equal contribution” describes your marriage at all – especially if you are looking back at your marriage now that it has broken down. But it does not matter if the reality of your marriage was nothing like what the Family Law Act describes.
A court will not be interested in hearing about the specific details of your marriage, or the ways you feel you contributed more (or less) to the relationship. There are, however, a few specific circumstances that can lead a court to divide property unequally, but these relate to how you or your spouse treated debts or assets, not how you behaved towards one another in the marriage.
You and your spouse are free to divide your property however you wish if you come to your own agreement, outside of court. You can form this agreement before or during the marriage, in what is called a marriage contract, or upon separation, in a separation agreement. But once you apply to court for division of property, the court will assume you contributed equally and divide the value of your marital property accordingly.
If you would like more information about the division of property, please visit our website. If you would like to speak with one of our lawyers regarding your family law matter, please feel free to contact us at (905) 581-7222 to schedule your initial consultation.
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