‘Matrimonial Property’ is all property acquired by spouses during the marriage. Generally, matrimonial property is divided equally between spouses when a marriage ends, unless the result would be unfair. Certain kinds of property acquired before the marriage may not be divided when a marriage ends. This is called ‘exempt property’. However, sometimes the increase in value of exempt property may be considered ‘matrimonial property’. Nonetheless, this increase in value may not automatically lead to an equal split. The Court will make a decision based on what is just and equitable.
Property which may be divided includes, but is not limited to:
- The matrimonial home;
- Household goods (this includes almost all personal property used by family members);
- R.R.S.P. and employment pensions;
- Business interests;
- Investments, stocks, bonds;
- Cars; and
- Other property that has been purchased during the marriage or brought into the matrimonial relationship, or used for the mutual benefit of the spouses.
Property which may not be divided includes:
- Property acquired by one spouse before the marriage;
- Property one spouse received as a gift;
- Property one spouse received by inheritance;
- An award or settlement for damages in tort law in favour of one spouse (i.e. money paid for pain and suffering in an automobile accident) unless the award was meant to compensate both spouses.
No claim by the other spouse can be made on the property listed above, unless it has been brought into the marriage. An example of this would be taking a home purchased by one spouse before the marriage and putting it under both spouse’s names.
Division of Pensions
As noted above, pensions are considered property under the MPA. There are two types of pensions: private pensions (by employment) and the Canada Pension Plan. Certain pensions may have legislation that determines how the pension will be divided when a marriage ends. Contact your pension administrator to find out if this kind of legislation applies to you.