Thursday, September 14, 2006

Property Division After Separation

“Good afternoon, this is LawLINE. My name is Ted; I’m a Law LINE lawyer. Who’s calling, please?”

It’s a woman with an accent I don’t recognize. She introduces herself as “Aysi”, and she’s originally from a country in the Middle East. She has some questions about getting separated from her husband. She is articulate, but has no understanding of how to start the separation process and what the laws are in Canada regarding such matters.

They have been married twelve years, and have a five-year old child. She did not work outside the home, but as a step to independence from a marriage that was not working, she recently did some training and took steps to get a part-time job in office administration.

Aysi is especially interested in property division on separation. The family home, a two bedroom condo, is in her husband’s name solely, and her understanding is that if she leaves her husband, she will get nothing.

Not true, I tell her.

As she and her husband are legally married, the law states that each of them is presumed to have a one-half interest in every family asset, regardless of who is the registered owner. Furthermore, if she starts a divorce lawsuit, she could obtain a court order to give her temporarily the exclusive right to occupy the house with the children.

In the meantime, as she is not “on title,” she should consider protecting her interest in the home by filing a lien under the Land Spouse Protection Act.

We go on to discuss the potential role of women’s centres in helping her plan to separate and be independent. She is very relieved to understand her rights better and have a community contact at a women’s centre where she could meet other women who can help her plan her future.

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