Legal rights relating to property differ depending on whether you are married, lived common law or a combination of both.

For married couples who reside in Ontario, the Family Law Act sets out a complex formula for determining property rights upon breakdown of the relationship. Typically, the accumulated net worth of the parties during the marriage is “equalized”, though there are numerous exceptions relating to matrimonial homes, inheritances, gifts from third parties etc. Where an “equalization” of net family property is unfair or unconscionable, remedies are available through the Family Law Act or through “equitable” doctrines addressed below.

For common law couples, the starting point for determining property rights upon breakdown of the relationship is based on ownership. However, “equitable” remedies are available where dividing property according to ownership would be unjust in the circumstances. Two recent decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada have lowered the threshold for pursuing these equitable claims.

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