How is property divided?
When you decide to separate, you and your former partner will have to work out how to split up your property, as well as your debts. The division of property varies according to different provincial and territorial laws.
When your relationship ends, the way your property will be divided depends on whether you were legally married or not.
- Married: In general, the value of any assets acquired during a marriage and the increase in value of property you brought into the marriage (with some exceptions) are divided equally, unless you and your spouse agree to a different split or the court divides it differently. The spouse with the larger share of family property may owe the other spouse an equalization payment.
- Common-law: Generally, common-law couples do not have the same rights as married couples to share the property they bought when living together. (There are exceptions in British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.) Usually, property belongs to the person who bought it. If you do not have a cohabitation agreement and you contributed to acquiring, preserving or maintaining property owned by your former partner, you may have a right to part of it. If your common-law partner does not agree, you may have to go to court to settle your contribution.
It’s a good idea to act right away. In some provinces and territories, if you wait too long after your separation or divorce to make a claim, you may lose your rights to your share of the property.
What if you signed a prenuptial or cohabitation agreement?
While these documents are legal contracts, it is possible for judges to set aside a prenuptial or cohabitation agreement under certain circumstances.
What is considered to be property?
Property can include:
- the home you and your spouse shared
- any other real estate, such as rental or vacation property
- contents of your home, such as furniture, electronics, appliances, jewellery, books, collectibles and art
- cars and other vehicles
- savings, such as bank accounts and cash
- investments, such as Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), Tax-Free Saving Accounts (TFSAs) or Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs)
- insurance policies
Some provinces and territories also include business assets in their definition of property.
Taxes and registered plans
However, if you intend to use funds held in a registered plan, you generally have to pay taxes on what you withdraw.
Sharing Canada Pension Plan (CPP) credits
Unless you have signed an agreement otherwise, the Canada Pension Plan (CPP)
credits that you and your partner built up during the time you lived together may be divided. You can split the CPP credits even if one person did not pay into the plan.
If you are getting a divorce, you do not have to apply. You will only need to inform CPP staff about the divorce and provide some information, such as the length of time you lived together.
For more information or to request a credit split, contact Service Canada