Matrimonial Home

What is a Matrimonial Home?

The matrimonial home holds a special significance in family law. It refers to the property where you and your spouse resided as a married couple. The matrimonial home may be owned by one or both spouses, and it serves as the normal residence for the family.

During a divorce, the matrimonial home holds specific legal implications that need to be addressed. Here are some important legal considerations:

1. Equalization of Net Family Property

The matrimonial home is usually included in the calculation of the equalization of net family property, which determines the division of assets and debts between spouses upon divorce.

2. Exclusive Possession

One spouse may seek exclusive possession of the matrimonial home, which grants them the right to live in the home while the divorce proceedings are ongoing.

3. Sale or Retention

The matrimonial home may need to be sold, or one spouse may be able to retain it after compensating the other spouse for any interest they may have in the home. Determining the best course of action requires careful analysis of financial considerations and the best interests of any children involved.

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At Chapman Steffler LLP, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive legal services to help you navigate the complex landscape of Matrimonial Home matters. Our team of experienced family law lawyers will tailor our approach to your specific needs, offering compassionate support and effective representation throughout the process.


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Pursuant to s. 18(1) of the Family Law Act, 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 person and his or her spouse as their family residence”.

In simple terms, this will generally mean that whatever property the spouses lived in and regarded as their family home at the time they separated is their “matrimonial home”.

If the spouses have routinely spent significant amounts of time in more than one property (for example, if the spouses often spent time together at a cottage), they may have more than one matrimonial home.

In general, where a matrimonial home is owned jointly by both spouses, there are two broad options: (a) one spouse may wish to “buy out” the other spouse by purchasing the other spouse’s interest in the home, or (b) the home may be sold.

However, what amount must be paid for a buy-out, or how funds would be distributed following a sale, may be impacted by other property and support issues. As such, the division of the matrimonial home must be looked at within the context of the broader resolution of all property and support issues.

Upon separation, married spouses can claim an “equalization of net family properties”. Determining a spouse’s net family property (“NFP”) involves calculating the net value of all property owned by that spouse at separation, and deducting from this the net value of property owned by the spouse at marriage, except for a matrimonial home.

The result is that if one spouse brought a home into the marriage, and the parties were ordinarily occupying that home as their family residence on the date of separation, there is no deduction for the equity in the home brought into the marriage. This does not necessarily mean that the other spouse has “right to half” of the house, but its full value is shared through the equalization process.

There are two common ways to determine the value of a matrimonial home, or any other real property: (a) an opinion of value, or (b) an appraisal.

An opinion of value can usually be obtained from a realtor for minimal or no cost, but is not as exact or as reliable as an appraisal. In an opinion of value, the realtor will usually provide a range for the price at which the home could be listed for sale.

An appraisal is more formal and must be completed by a certified appraiser. It is more expensive than an opinion of value, but also more exact, as the appraiser will usually give a more definite value for the property, rather than a price range.

Issues relating to the matrimonial home often overlap with other property issues and may also be impacted by various considerations relating to parenting and support. As such, it is important to understand how these issues intersect, as they cannot be looked at in isolation. It is important to seek legal advice to determine how these various issues interact in your case and what the best options are to move forward.

When the matrimonial home is owned by one spouse, the other spouse still retains an equal right to possession upon separation or divorce. This means that both spouses have an equal say in the home’s use or disposal until a court order or a mutual agreement is reached. The ownership does not automatically grant the owning spouse the right to evict the other or make unilateral decisions about the home, emphasizing the principle that the matrimonial home is treated distinctly from other marital assets.

In a common law relationship, partners do not automatically have the same rights to the matrimonial home as married couples. Common law couples do not have an inherent equal right to possession of a home owned by one partner, unlike married couples. However, a common law partner may still have rights to the property based on contributions to its value or through a cohabitation agreement or marriage contract. These agreements can specify arrangements regarding the home in the event of separation, offering a legal pathway for common law couples to secure their rights similarly to married spouses.