Dividing collective property in a divorce
British Columbia couples considering divorce might want to prepare for the fact that a substantial portion of the assets they own might fall under the legal category of family property, which is subject to division by law. Assets obtained independently and prior to the couple’s relationship are one of the few types of possessions excluded from the family property classification.
Assets classified as family property when couples separate include those that were independently obtained by one spouse yet served the couple’s beneficial interest. Property that is purchased after the separation may also be classified as family property if the means to obtain it came from family property resources. Many financial assets are destined for the same classification, including shares in a company, business interests and balances from both bank and retirement accounts. In the same way, debts acquired by the couple is deemed collective in a divorce and therefore subject to division between the two splitting parties.
However, family law in British Columbia does allow for ex-spouses to personally keep as undivided property any inheritances bequeathed to them but not their partner . The same holds true for compensation or other damages awarded to one of the spouses on account of a civil lawsuit in most cases.
That, generally, is how family courts begin to decide the manner in which property will be split. Yet, couples and their lawyers may negotiate an agreement regarding property division on their own terms and submit it to the court for ratification. Success often hinges on the representation and professional wherewithal of the lawyers retained by individual spouses, especially if the dissolution of the marriage contains an evident level of hostility, resentment or vindictiveness.
Source: Queens Printer, BC, “Family property“, December 24, 2014
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