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When does property cease being "marital" in a divorce?

Marital property typically refers to assets obtained during the course of a marriage. But with many Ontario divorces taking several years, including a long period of separation, many wonder when assets obtained by either party cease being marital property. Since support is governed by federal rules while property is governed by provincial legislation, the answer to this question can vary depending on what divorce issue is being negotiated.

In terms of support, both spouses must meet the financial requirements of marriage until a legal separation agreement is in place with clear support requirements. The signing of this agreement will be the first time there is a clear-cut understanding of the financial obligations between both parties. If an agreement cannot be reached, a court document may be drafted to outline terms and conditions.

Division of property is also designated in these agreements. This means that the decision about when a marriage "ends" is less about an official legal end date and more about the circumstances and negotiations surrounding the divorce and what is written in the final agreement. This can vary from couple to couple. The only true legal date signifying the end of negotiations is the paperwork being signed to finalize the separation agreement.

In other words, under Ontario law, any debts and assets obtained prior to a legal separation agreement may be up for negotiation during divorce proceedings. Those making big financial decisions during the course of a separation, such as purchasing property, should talk to their family lawyer about how this could affect their separation agreement. A lawyer can also help to draft the documents needed to finalize a separation or divorce.

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