Divorce and Property Division in Alberta: What You Need To Know
In the Province of Alberta – the Matrimonial Property Act (herein referred to as “MPA”) governs the division of assets and property for legally married spouses. The MPA identifies what is considered property as well as what is exempt from distribution of assets upon the dissolution of a marriage. The MPA does not apply to individuals who are in a common-law relationship. If you and your spouse can agree on the division of assets then you can have a lawyer draft up a contract on your behalf. However, if you and your spouse cannot agree on the division of assets, then you can bring an application to the Court of Queen’s Bench for an Order for the distribution of your matrimonial property. Under both circumstances – we recommend you hire a divorce lawyer.
From our experience as divorce lawyers – it’s fairly normal to see divorcing couples disagree on how matrimonial assets get divided. In situations like this – the court will resort to making an order that will govern how the assets will get divided under the auspices of the MPA. Situations such as this can result in strong opinions on how assets get divided (which may not be in your individual favour) and we recommend you hire an Edmonton family lawyer to help oversee your best interests when this does happen.
What is a Matrimonial Asset?
In the Province of Alberta – there are 3 types of assets according to Alberta family law:
- Matrimonial Property: including all debts and assets accumulated by either or both spouses throughout the duration of the marriage including anything acquired after the date of separation.
- Exempt Property: this refers to assets or debts acquired by one of the spouses prior to entering the marriage or items that are received as gifts, inheritances or settlements from third parties during the marriage. So long as these items can be demonstrated as the property of one person – they may be exempt from division.
- Increase in Value of Exempt Property: Any increase in gains of exempt property may be subjected to equitable division during a divorce process. For example, if a piece of antique jeweller was purchased during the marriage for $1,000 – but at the time of divorce was valued at $5,000 – the gains of $4,000 may be subjected to equitable division.
The most important asset which generally gets challenged during divorce proceedings is the matrimonial home. This could be a house, town house, condominium, mobile home, etc. It is important to note here that the Courts do not have jurisdiction over matrimonial assets in provinces outside of Alberta or other countries. Again, this is where hiring a divorce lawyer can help.
Some factors that the Court will consider when deciding how the assets get divided include but are not limited to:
- When the assets and debts each party accrued occurred (whether it was before or after marriage)
- If these assets were accrued jointly, individually or under other entities
- A review of all assets whether they were gifts or pre-marriage assets
- Consider what is exempt property and what is not
- If any existing Court Orders exist
- How long the marriage lasted
- What each spouse contributed throughout the duration of the marriage
- Financial situation of both parties
- Any pre-existing agreements that were made prior to or during marriage (pre-nuptial agreements or marriage contracts, etc.)
- And more
Some of the factors not considered during the division of matrimonial party include but are not limited to:
- In most cases (but not all) the Court will not consider whether a spouse was unfaithful or domestically abusive during the marriage
- Exempt property such as assets acquired by inheritance, owned prior to the marriage, awards or settlements, proceeds from insurance payouts, etc.
- And more
If you and your spouse or partner are considering separating and/or divorcing, speak with one of our Edmonton divorce lawyers today. Please contact us today for a consultation and discover the Verhaeghe Law Office difference for yourself. The division of matrimonial assets can be very complicating and cause a lot of stress during the divorce process. Our divorce lawyers can meet with you and explain your rights during this process.
We have assisted many clients in Alberta with their property division matters stemming form their divorce – and have received many great reviews from our previous clients which you can read on our testimonials section. Don’t delay - contact us now and let us help navigate you through your divorce proceedings.
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*Please note the content in this blog does not constitute legal advice as every case is unique from one another. We encourage you to seek legal advice for answers related to your divorce and/or family law questions.