By David Harris-Lowe, partner, Family Law


Which spouse owns the family home, whether you’re married or in a common law relationship, matters.  The rules around ownership are important and can make a significant difference to how property issues get resolved.  Some rules that are often surprising to people include:

a)      When you get married, ownership of assets, including the matrimonial home matters.  Family law does not change ownership.

b)      If you own the matrimonial home on the date of marriage and on the date of separation, this can result in a significant difference to how much a spouse owes (or is owed) if only one spouse owns a matrimonial home.

c)       Common law couples, even after years of living together, do not have the same rules with regard to property.

d)      Even if you are the legal owner of a home, the other spouse may still be able to claim an ownership interest in the home.

The rules regarding the treatment of family property sometimes lead to surprising results and they do change from time to time.  The idea of a joint family venture has only existed for less than 10 years and significantly changed how a non-owning spouse can claim an interest in family property.

If you are going through a separation, it’s important not to assume what the law says about the division of property, especially the family home.  It is always a good idea to meet with a family law professional to get accurate information.