A matrimonial home is any property in which a person has an interest and that is, or, if the spouses have separated, was at the time of separation, ordinarily occupied by the parties as their family residence. Shortly, a matrimonial home is a dwelling in which both you and your spouse have resided.
The property law regime in Ontario, outlined in the Family Law Act, defines a matrimonial home whereby both spouses have an equal right to possession, even when one spouse is not in title as the official owner of the property. This means, even if one spouse purchased the home as the owner and has an ownership interest, the other spouse will have an equal right to possess the home on dissolution of a marriage. This limits the title owner’s powers with respect to the alienation of the property i.e. you are not able to sell the property without your spouse’s consent; and you are not able to ask your spouse to vacate the property. Both spouses have an equal right to live in the home until a resolution has been reached. You are also obligated to share the proceeds of the sale of the home equally, even if only one spouse is on title or is the one paying the mortgage.
The courts have many ancillary powers and can grant you an order for either exclusive or a time limited possession of a matrimonial home. In deciding who ultimately possesses this property, the courts will consider:
In Ontario, common law spouses do not have the same rights to equal division of the matrimonial home nor the assets amassed during the relationship. You can however, seek a remedy to receive compensation for contributions you made with your time, or assets, that enabled your partner to accumulate property or increase the value of the matrimonial home. To receive any interest in the property, you must prove there is a constructive trust. This means, the person holding title to the property has an equitable duty to compensate the other spouse, because the title-holder unfairly benefited from the contributions of the spouse who is now left without a property to his/her name. The courts must be convinced that:
Once satisfied, the courts will make a decision about whether to award the non-title spouse a possessory interest in the matrimonial home, or award them a sum of money.
NOTE: This article has been written for general information purposes only and does NOT constitute legal advice. For further questions and/or legal advice please consult a qualified lawyer.