Surrey British Columbia Family Law Blog

Property division: Understanding what's included

Separating or divorcing means a couple still has to take care of a lot of business. One of the issues about which decisions need to be made is property division. That hasn't been easy for many British Columbia couples in light of the volatile real estate market and escalating property values, but there are distinct rules in place governed by the Family Law Act. For example, family property is any property owned by both spouses on the date of separation no matter in whose name the property is registered and that means that property must be divided equally among the individuals.

Excluded property -- not considered to be family property -- is owned by one spouse before the relationship began. With this type of property, the increase of that property value is what is considered for division upon the trial date or on the date the spouses agree on a settlement -- not on the date of separation. Many couples don't realize this and the effect it may have on property division since it could take months to settle and to wait for a trial date.

Collaborative law offers a peaceful way to divorce

When British Columbia spouses decide to end their marriages, they may be reluctant to begin divorce proceedings. This is often because divorce is traditionally a contentious and stressful time that may become more divisive and bitter as the process evolves. Many more couples are looking at collaborative law as a more peaceful method of ending their marriages.

Collaborative law involves a team of experts who guide the couple in reaching fair and sustainable decisions about the common issues of divorce. Each couple obtains individual legal counsel, who then sign agreements to avoid litigation. In this way, the couple knows their lawyers are working for a collaborative resolution and will not stir up distrust that can lead to the courtroom.

How divorce can affect financial and mental health

There are many areas of life that can be affected when a couple decides to part ways. Not only can divorce create financial hardship for each individual, but it may also have an effect on a person's mental health. British Columbia residents who are going through a divorce or separation are usually stressed about their financial situations, which -- in turn -- can wreak havoc with their overall well-being, including mental health. 

Statistics show that about 40% of all marriages in Canada end in divorce before they reach the 30-year mark. Debt stress is also on the rise in the country and is exacerbated by divorce. It has become so bad, that divorced individuals are more prone to stress related to debt and other psychological stressors. Added stress can make symptoms of depression and anxiety much worse.

The cost of hiding assets during a divorce

When couples decide to end their marriages, very often the claws come out. Although lawyers advise their clients in British Columbia to disclose all their assets to their spouses in divorce situations, that isn't always what happens. It also doesn't mean that the person's former spouse will automatically get some of those hidden assets.

Disclosure usually means providing tax returns, financial statements from the bank, and any interests in stocks and insurance policies as well as employment bonuses. According to Canada's Family Law Act, these disclosure requirements are the law, but they can also result in litigation. The courts often look at the length of the relationship. Undisclosed assets or debts shouldn't be considered in isolation of surrounding circumstances.

Tax ramifications associated with divorce

There are tax consequences associated with the end of a marriage. Some British Columbia couples are not prepared for the financial consequences after having made the decision to divorce and that may cause even more stress. According to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), a couple is considered to be separated if they have lived apart as a couple for at least 90 days and when separated the CRA will tax a resident as an individual.

Those taxed as individuals aren't able to claim certain social benefits as they did if they claimed as a couple or family. Those include the Canada Child Benefit, the Canada Workers Benefit or the GST/HST credit. Whomever has the children the most is the individual who can claim these benefits -- in other words, whomever has primary custody. When parents share custody 50/50, the CRA lets parents share the claims for the benefit year, which is from July to June. 

Property division: What happens to the house after a split?

When living under one roof becomes more than couples can bear, they may decide it's time to end their relationships. British Columbia residents who are married or living in common law unions have many things with which they need to come to terms. One of the decisions that has to be made upon the dissolution of a marriage or common law relationship, is property division. 

Provinces and territories have slightly different laws governing the division of property, but one thing is the same in all areas -- marriage is considered an equal partnership. Property division rules in British Columbia apply to couples who live together in a marriage-like relationship for two or more years. Just like married couples in the province, they will likely share any property accruing during the relationship, but not property brought into the relationship. Couples can opt out of that rule by having a cohabitation agreement in place. 

A new age of the happy divorce

Decades ago, no one ever talked about a couple splitting up. Divorce was like a bad word in the 1930s and 40s and only become somewhat acceptable socially moving into the 50s. But today, British Columbia couples who make the decision that their marriages are no longer working and choose to separate or divorce are actually celebrating their new-found freedoms with aplomb.

Divorce became particularly acceptable in the 70s when the rate flew well over 50%. Many divorces decades ago were contentious and fraught with custody battles, restraining orders and overheated tempers. The 21st century has brought with it a more gentle way of ending a marriage in many cases. In fact, some couples are raising glasses of champagne to their uncouplings. 

Family law in British Columbia: The purpose of interim orders

Interim orders are sometimes necessary when it comes to children of divorce. When a family law case is happening in British Columbia, an interim order may be needed to help with urgent or important issues surrounding children. These types of orders can stop a parent from taking a child out of the area or for financial help with children.

The applicant must file a notice of application for an interim order with the Supreme Court, explaining the need for the order and what the applicant would like accomplished with the order. The applicant must also fill out an affidavit and choose a date for the matter to be heard -- the soonest being eight days. Once the application has been filed, the applicant must file notice on the other party at least eight business days before the hearing is to take place.

Can dogs be a tool in the mediation process?

There are a number of emotional areas of the law. Mediation can be one of those processes that can be emotionally taxing, and there may be help for British Columbia residents having a tough time going through the family mediation process: having an even-tempered, tail-wagging friend in the room. Apparently, a dog can be a man, woman and child's best friend when it comes to emotional legal proceedings like mediation.

Dogs and humans have evolved together over thousands of years. Therapy dogs can have a calming effect on people who are under a lot of stress and that may mean during mediation talks. They may, in fact, be one of the best tools a lawyer or mediator can use during the mediation process. Dogs are known for reducing stress, promoting trust and enhancing communication between people, so it stands to reason they might be a good fit during mediation where these attributes are crucial.

Strife during divorce may affect children adversely

No one may be as affected by a marital split than a child. Divorce is usually a difficult process for a British Columbia couple to go through, but it may be even more so for their children. In fact, the fallout of divorce may create behaviours in a child that usually wouldn't be typical of him or her. It may be harder for a child to concentrate on tasks, may cause a child to fidget more or create hardship when needing to manage tasks -- especially at school.

In some cases, a child may even be misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), when, in fact, he or she  may just be dealing with something known as attention divided by divorce. A child may act in the same way in either case, so it's important for teachers to understand what is happening in a child's home life. When a child experiences high conflict at home, he or she may show signs of that in a classroom.

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