When a marriage ends, spouses usually want to complete a final division of their assets and liabilities. The Matrimonial Property Act of Alberta sets out the law regarding the division of property. Exactly how property is divided, and in what proportions, depends on the specific circumstances of the case. Each province also has a different set of laws.
It is strongly advised that anyone contemplating a division of marital assets meet with a lawyer to learn their rights prior to discussing a division of assets and liabilities with their spouse. A legal opinion will arm a client with a knowledge of their rights, some general income tax advice and an explanation of the steps required to complete the division in a final, binding manner.
At Mincher Koeman, our family law lawyers are exceedingly experienced in matters relating to property division in a divorce as well as a breakdown of a common-law relationship. From the first meeting, our team will prepare a detailed inventory of family assets and provide a comprehensive assessment of each party’s rights and obligations. Our lawyers are also experienced with identifying and rectifying situations where one party makes attempts to hide or fails to disclose, certain assets in order to influence a final order. Our founding partners, Lynsey Mincher and Andrew Koeman, each have a background in criminal law practice involving white-collar crimes, where they were routinely faced with the need to locate and value assets. They put that experience to work for their family clients in order to ensure a fair distribution of assets and will bring in experts to aid in this work when necessary.
The Matrimonial Property Act states that married spouses may conclude a final and legal binding division of their property any way they want – provided they put the terms of the division into a written agreement specifically identifying and valuing the assets and liabilities. Each party must consult a lawyer separately for a legal opinion regarding the agreement and then sign the agreement with their respective lawyers.
Generally, when a relationship ends, one or both parties will seek to remain in the matrimonial or family home during the separation. This may necessitate an application to the court for exclusive possession of the home, which is often an interim determination for the duration of time it takes for the couple to sort out all matters relating to their split. When considering an application for exclusive possession, a court will examine a number of factors, including:
Upon a breakdown of a common-law relationship, each person generally leaves the relationship with what they came in with, and shared property will need to be divided up or sold, with the parties splitting the proceeds. Unlike a marriage, there is currently no concept of a matrimonial home or a presumption of shared property for those in a common-law partnership. However, there are legislative changes coming into effect in January of 2020 which will significantly address these issues and grant property rights to common-law partners equivalent to those currently granted to married couples.
As of January 2020, the Matrimonial Property Act will be renamed the Family Property Act, allowing for the inclusion of non-married partners. All parties will be subject to the same rights and benefits that married couples currently have, including the rights attached to the matrimonial home, which will be referred to as the family home going forward.
At Mincher Koeman, our lawyers have the experience and skill necessary to handle any matter involving the division of family property, no matter how complex. We provide knowledgable and candid advice to our clients, working to efficiently traverse the process of valuing and dividing shared property. We will always seek to provide a client with the most cost-effective method appropriate for their given situation. If you are facing the end of a relationship and require the services of an effective family law lawyer for the fair division of your family property, contact our office to make an appointment to discuss your matter by calling us at 403-910-3000 or by contacting us online.
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