Dividing net family property after a separation can be a common cause of stress for the parties involved. Under Ontario law, wealth and assets accumulated during the course of the relationship must be allocated between the parties when a relationship comes to an end, with certain exceptions. This process can involve very complex calculations, particularly in situations involving family businesses, trusts, or international investments. In addition, there may be disagreements with respect to the ownership of certain assets or even the disclosure of strategically concealed assets.

At Boulby Weinberg LLP in Toronto, we have considerable experience assisting clients with the calculation of net family property and the equalization process. Before settling on a strategy, we will review your situation in detail and ask you about your ideal outcome. From there, we will provide an honest assessment of the situation, and work with you to develop the most advantageous approach to secure the best possible outcome.

Our divorce lawyers have extensive experience assisting clients with both simple and complex property division issues. For clients with complex assets such as businesses or foreign properties, we have in-depth knowledge and international resources to obtain accurate and reliable valuations. We have worked with many clients who have intricate financial structures and we excel at providing clarity in these situations. Both of our partners, Sarah Boulby and Oren Weinberg, are Fellows of the International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL) and are renowned for their understanding and experience in international family matters. Their membership in IAFL means our firm has an extensive network of international experts at our disposal to assist us with complex cross-border matters if necessary.

How Does Family Property Equalization Work in Ontario?

Separating spouses are required to share the growth in value of their assets accrued during the marriage, as mandated under the provincial Family Law Act. As a result, the division of net family property in Ontario is largely an exercise in accounting for the difference in the value of a couple’s assets at the time of marriage, versus the date of separation (aka the “valuation date”). Equalization is calculated by first determining the value of each spouse’s net family property. Net family property is the total amount of each spouse’s assets, minus:

  1. His or her debts and other liabilities; and
  2. The value of all property (other than a matrimonial home) he or she owned at the date of marriage (after deducting his or her debts and other liabilities other than any debts or liabilities related directly to the acquisition or significant improvement of a matrimonial home, calculated as of the date of the marriage).

How is the Matrimonial Home Treated in the Division of Family Property?

The matrimonial home is given special treatment under the Family Law Act. The value of the home (or homes; there can be more than one) at the time of the marriage is not taken into consideration. Rather, the value of the home(s) at the valuation date is added to the “net family property” of one or both spouses. If only one spouse owns the home, the full value of the home will form part of their net property amount.

Once the amounts for each spouse have been properly determined, the difference between the two will be split, with half of that value owing to the party with fewer assets.

Exclusions From “Net Family Property”

Certain property acquired by a party during marriage is specifically excluded from the calculation of “family property”, including:

  • Property other than a matrimonial home acquired by gift or inheritance during the marriage;
  • Income from gifts or inheritances if the donor expressly stated that it was to be excluded;
  • Damages for personal injuries, nervous shock, mental distress or loss of care and companionship;
  • Proceeds of, or the right to proceeds of, a policy of life insurance; and
  • Property other than a matrimonial home into which property referred to above can be traced.

Contracting Out of Net Family Property Rules

It is possible for a couple to contract around the rules with a domestic contract such as a contract or separation agreement. Couples are permitted to set their own rules regarding the division of property in addition to other items, such as spousal support arrangements. However, a contract must meet certain criteria in order to be considered valid by a court. Specifically, the contract must be in writing and signed by both parties before a witness. A court will also set aside a contract if one or both parties was not forthcoming about their assets at the time the contract was signed, or if one or both parties did not fully appreciate the meaning of the contract or its intended effect. For this reason, it is strongly advised that each party receive independent legal advice before signing any domestic agreement.

For Experienced Guidance Through the Division of Your Family Property, Contact Boulby Weinberg LLP

Whether dividing property before a judge in court or by alternative methods such as negotiation or mediation, Boulby Weinberg LLP can help. Known for our strategic approach, ability to tackle the most complex financial structures, and broad understanding of local and international family property issues, we will ensure your interests are protected throughout the property division process.

To arrange a consultation with a reputable and empathetic lawyer at Boulby Weinberg LLP, please complete our confidential online questionnaire, which will provide you with valuable preliminary information tailored to your situation. A representative from our firm will contact you within one business day to discuss your matter further and arrange an initial meeting. To contact our firm without completing the questionnaire, please reach out to us online, or call us at 647-494-0113 ext. 102.