Legal Ease by Karen McNeilly
While planning this article, I researched some famous “love” quotes. I came across these three which sadly have some truth to them:
“There is love of course. And then there is life, its enemy.”
“The hottest love has the coldest end.”
“Love is grand; divorce is a hundred grand.”
Most people enter a committed relationship with the hopes that it will last forever, and during the course of planning a wedding or moving in together, it feels like it will ruin the romance to discuss potential outcomes if the relationship doesn’t last. Not having that discussion, however, could leave you with far bigger problems than a broken heart, and potentially have you coming out of the relationship with much less than you entered into it with.
If you are lucky enough to bring major assets into a relationship (i.e. a house, RRSPs, pensions, vacation property) and the relationship ends, you will lose a portion of those assets formerly known as “your own.”
Current law states that all assets defined as “family assets,” whether brought into or acquired during the marriage, are to be divided equally among both parties at the end of a marriage.
If you are ending a common-law relationship, the division of assets is based on an entirely different set of laws. In this case, you would have to prove that you made a contribution to your partner’s assets either with money, labour, or other efforts in order to share in the division of them.
New legislation is being proposed which could dramatically change how property will be divided. This new legislation would apply to both married and unmarried couples equally.
The proposed legislation sets out that, for most cases, it is only the increase in the value of the assets during the relationship that would be divided equally with your partner. The value of the asset at the time the relationship began is excluded from division, and would be kept by the person who owned it before the marriage or cohabitation.
There are ways to protect yourself if you are bringing substantial assets into a relationship. Marriage agreements (formerly called prenuptial agreements) and cohabitation agreements are upheld by the courts provided the agreement treats both parties fairly.
As uncomfortable as it may be to discuss these issues prior to your marriage or cohabitation, it pales in comparison to the angst experienced by many who have not asked those questions. Your family lawyer can help you explore your options and explain your rights and obligations before you say “I do.”
Karen McNeilly is an associate with RDM Lawyers.