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How do I protect my share of family assets during divorce?

Spouses in British Columbia must follow legal guidelines outlined in the provincial Family Relations Act to distribute property between them during a separation or divorce. Property known as family assets is required to be split just as property outside that classification remains separate.

Family assets are made up of separately or jointly-owned property regularly used by spouses or their non-adult children for family reasons. It's equally important for spouses to understand what does not qualify as a family asset as it is to know what does. An attorney can help make sure you are clear about the differences.

Generally, any assets held by an individual prior to marriage or acquired following separation are not considered family assets. Certain assets acquired by an individual during marriage are also exempt from property division. These include, but are not limited to direct inheritances, personal gifts and certain damages from liability lawsuits.

Provincial property division laws assume all assets are family assets unless spouses can show they are not. A claim that an asset is exempt must include proof the property was not used regularly or meant to be used by the family.

A "triggering event" can provide protection of a spouse's share of family assets. This event may be a separation agreement, a divorce order or some other official end to the marital relationship. The event serves to confirm which assets are to be divided and the interests each spouse has in them and separate responsibilities for debt.

Initiating a triggering event may be advised if you are worried about protecting your portion of family assets. Concerns sometimes arise when one spouse is suspected of concealing assets. An attorney may offer additional suggestions, including a careful inventory and valuation of the assets to be divided.

Property division during divorce can be stressful. A legal adviser will help make the process as beneficial to you as possible.

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