In British Columbia, the law states that when a married or common law couple separates, family property and debt are divided 50/50. However, exceptions do exist. Our post this week takes a broad look at the less common circumstances in which spouses may leave the relationship with an unequal division of family property and debt.
How Might An Unequal Division Take Place?
Spouses can mutually agree that one party will take a larger share while the other takes a correspondingly smaller portion of family property or debt. This may have been arranged at the outset of the relationship in a marriage or cohabitation agreement. It can also be stated in a separation agreement when the relationship ends. Unless the agreement is overruled, the court will generally uphold the arrangements made within these legally valid documents.
The couple can also make a “consent order”, in which both parties agree to have the court order an unequal division.
In cases where one party claims an unequal share, but the other party disagrees, then the court weighs the arguments and decides whether the facts support an unequal division.
How Does The Court Decide On An Unequal Division?
If a 50/50 split of family property or debt would be “significantly unfair” to one party, then the court has authority to order a division that is fair, albeit unequal. In doing so, the judge looks at many factors, some of which include:
- Length of the couple’s relationship
- Contributions made by one spouse to the other spouse’s career advancement
- How family debt was acquired and the ability of each spouse to share in its repayment
- Actions of one spouse that significantly impacted the value of family debt or property after separating
Apportioning family property and debt requires careful analysis and planning. This is especially so in cases of unequal divisions. The lawyers at Peterson Stark Scott are ready to help couples secure their best interests by pursuing the most equitable arrangements of property division.