How Do I Get Out of Sharing My Assets?

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

Married spouses and unmarried spouses

Married spouses and unmarried couples who have lived together for at least two years are presumed to have a one-half interest in all propertySomething which can be owned. See "chattels" and "real property." either or both of them acquired after the date the couple married or began to live together, whichever came first. Certain property is excluded from the family propertyA term under the ''Family Law Act'' referring to property acquired by either or both spouses during their relationship and after separation, if bought with family property. Both spouses are presumed to be equally entitled to share in family property. See "excluded property." the spouses are expected to divide, including:

  • the value of the property owned by each spouseUnder the ''Divorce Act'', either of two people who are married to one another, whether of the same or opposite genders. Under the ''Family Law Act'', married spouses, unmarried parties who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years, and, for all purposes of the act other than the division of property or debt, unmarried parties who have lived together for less than two years but have had a child together. See "marriage" and "marriage-like relationship." on the date the couple married or began to live together, whichever came first,
  • property bought with the property owned by each spouse on the date the couple married or began to live together,
  • inheritances and gifts received during the relationship,
  • court awards and insurance proceeds received during the relationship, and
  • trusts to which the spouse did not contribute and does not control.

If you want to do better than this, you'll have to sign a marriage agreementAn agreement signed by people who are planning on marrying or have married that is intended to govern their rights and obligations in the event of the breakdown of their marriage and, sometimes, their rights and obligations during their marriage. See "family law agreement." or a cohabitation agreementAn agreement signed by people who are or have begun to live together in a marriage-like relationship that is intended to govern their rights and obligations in the event of the breakdown of their relationship and, sometimes, their rights and obligations during their relationship. See "family law agreement." at some point before or shortly after you marry or begin to live together.

If you don't want to spend the money getting an agreement drawn up, here are some other things that can help:

  • When you begin to live together, take copies of the statements from all of your bank, investment, retirement, credit and loan accounts, copies of your BC Assessments for all real propertyA parcel of land and the buildings on that land. See "chattel," "ownership" and "possession.", staple them together and put them in a safety deposit box. This will help you to establish the value of the property you brought into the relationship.
  • During your relationship, keep a careful record of what you buy with the property you brought into the relationship.
  • During your relationship, keep records of the dates and values of any inheritances, gifts, insurance proceeds or court award that you receive.
  • Keep an eye on the debts your spouse incurs during the relationship.

You can find out more about how married spouses and unmarried spouses divide property in the chapter Property & Debt in Family Law Matters.

Unmarried couples who aren't spouses

For unmarried couples who don't qualify as spouses, the only property that is presumed to be shared is property that is jointly owned. Even if one person contributed virtually nothing to the purchase or upkeep of an asset, the simple fact that his or her name is on the titleIn law, a document demonstrating ownership of a thing. See "ownership." of the property or on the owner's registration means that he or she is presumed to have an ownershipA legal right to have a thing that is enforceable in court. See "possession." interest in the property. The property might not be shared equally between the parties, but in most cases each partner will get something.

There are no such presumptions about property that only one person owns. When one partner wants to make a claimThe assertion of a legal right to an order or to a thing; the remedy or relief sought by a party to a court proceeding. to share in an asset owned only by the other partner, the claim must be brought under the law of trusts and the law of equity. These are difficult claims to make, and almost always result in an award that is far less than the what the person would get if the couple had been spouses.

If you want to try to protect property from a claim brought by your partner, here are the best ways to do it:

  • Make sure that you only buy things in your own name, and that when you buy something your partner doesn't contribute to the purchase price, or to paying any loans or mortgages associated with that property.
  • Keep separate bank accounts and avoid joint purchases whenever possible.
  • Make sure your partner maintains his or her financial situation independently of you and doesn't drop out of the workforce to become a homemaker or stay at home parentIn family law, the natural or adoptive father or mother of a child; may also include stepparents, depending on the circumstances and the applicable legislation; may include the donors of eggs or sperm and surrogate mothers, depending on the circumstances and the terms of any assisted reproduction agreement. See "adoptive parent," "natural parent" and "stepparent.".
  • Pay your partner for any work he or she does for you, like renovating a room or working in your business. However, that pay should be about what you'd pay an independent contractor to do the same work. Be sure to keep records of everything you've paid your spouse.

You can find out more about how unmarried couples who aren't spouses may decide to divide property in the chapter Property & Debt in Family Law Matters.


Creativecommonssmall.png JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.
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