How property is divided during separation or divorce depends upon actions taken by British Columbia couples or a court. You and a spouse, who under the Family Law Act may include a common-law partner, can draft a legal agreement spelling out how property is divided. Terms may be defined in a cohabitation agreement, marriage or prenuptial agreement or a separation agreement.
Without an agreement, courts are directed to divide so-called family property equally. Family property is everything a couple owns or owes on the date of separation. Jointly and separately owned property is included as family property, although some assets and debts may be excluded.
Excluded property includes anything one spouse had prior to the marriage or the start of a common-law relationship. However, accumulated interest on the value of assets during the legal union is shared. Some assets acquired during the relationship like individual inheritances and gifts are the property of one spouse and not subject to division.
Debts are treated like assets during property division. Joint and separate debts are divided equally between married and common-law spouses. Post-separation debt related to the care of family property is also divisible.
The division of family property must occur within prescribed time limits. For married spouses, the deadline to apply for property division falls within a two-year window following divorce. For unmarried spouses, a separation date begins the two-year time clock.
Equal division is the standard, but there are instances when courts divide family property unequally. A court will review the history of the relationship and the couple's finances to determine whether equal division is also fair. Some considerations may be the source of family debt or a spouse's individual contributionstoward a partner's career.
Understandably, spouses rely on the advice of legal professionals to make sure spousal agreements and court decisions are equitable. A Peterson Stark Scott lawyer can provide answers to your most difficult property division questions.