Hi, my name is Megan Jamieson and I am an Associate with Feldstein Family Law Group. Today, I will be discussing the issue of more than one matrimonial home. Specifically, I will discuss whether a seasonal residence, which was owned by one party prior to the date of marriage, qualifies as a matrimonial home under the Family Law Act.
As you may know, the Family Law Act deals with property division for both married couples. The general idea of this legislation is to ensure that both parties equally share in the growth of assets during the time they were together, or between the date of marriage and the date of separation. Assets owned by a married spouse prior to the date of marriage are not included in the computation of that spouse`s net worth. The legislation takes into consideration that the other spouse or partner did not contribute to the attainment of assets acquired before the date of marriage. The exception to this rule is the matrimonial home. Essentially, the value of a matrimonial home, whether or not it was owned prior to the date of the marriage by either party, cannot be deducted from the computation of the owner’s net family property. The matrimonial home has its own place in the legislation and is treated differently than other property.
Given the special treatment afforded to the matrimonial home under the Family Law Act, it is important to understand what factors impact whether a seasonal property, such as a cottage or a condo, will be treated as the matrimonial home.
Under subsection 18 (1) of the Act a matrimonial home is defined as follows: “every property in which a person has an interest at the time of separation, and the property was ordinarily occupied by the person and his or her spouse as their family residence, is considered their matrimonial home.”
The wording of the Act anticipates that spouses may have more than one matrimonial home by stating that every property in which a person has an interest may be a matrimonial home. This property also needs to be ordinarily occupied by the person and his or her spouse at the date of separation. The reference to “ordinarily occupied” only makes sense if it is read together with the next part of the definition, that is, “as their family residence.”
Based on the definition, there is no condition that requires spouses to occupy the matrimonial home together or concurrently. It simply provides that both spouses must be occupying the home as a “family residence” at the date of separation. Arguably, if a family is using their cottage on weekends during the summer, it could be characterized as a matrimonial home.
Given the definition, a couple may have more than one matrimonial home at the time of their separation and the laws with respect to the division of the matrimonial home would apply to this second matrimonial home as well. For example, the value of the second matrimonial home cannot be deducted from the computation of the owning spouse’s net worth.
If you would like more information about property division or matrimonial home’s in particular, please visit our website at www.separation.ca. If you would like to schedule a free initial in-office consultation to speak with one of our lawyers about your family law matter, please call us at: 905-581-7222.