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Family law issues about the matrimonial home

When the marriage of an Alberta couple comes to an end, certain matters related to property division can give rise to disputes and contention. Under family law, treatment of the matrimonial home in which the spouses lived is not the same as other assets. Regardless of whose funds went toward the down payment and mortgage, once it has served as the family home, both spouses are regarded as equal owners of it.

The type of dispute that may arise came up in a question from a divorced man who purchased a home with his wife as co-signer. An inheritance from his parents took care of the down payment, and she made no contributions to the mortgage payments. She made no demands when they filed for divorce after 14 months. However, the man is now concerned that she might claim an equal share of the property -- especially because he had since managed to pay off the mortgage.

Unfortunately, many people are unaware of this law that is a fundamental part of the property division process. Any portion of an inheritance of one spouse that is put toward the down payment of the matrimonial home is regarded as a gift to the other spouse. The man's concern may include a question about the portion of the mortgage he paid after the finalization of the divorce.

This is a complicated area of the law, and the logical step would be to seek answers from an experienced family law lawyer. In fact, Alberta couples who consider divorce might be wise to get advice on drafting a separation agreement that could address issues related to property division. Although the law makes both parties equal owners of the matrimonial home, a valid separation agreement would typically take precedence.

Source: moneysense.ca, "Is my ex-wife entitled to half the principal residence I paid for?", Debbie Hartzman, July 10, 2017

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