Calgary & Strathmore Family Property Division Lawyers

The division of property when a marriage breakdown occurs can be a stressful part of the separation process. Some of your belongings are tied to fond memories or hold sentimental value, but the financial aspect is important too. Who gets what? And what happens to property that one of you owned before your marriage?

The knowledgeable family and divorce lawyers at Getz Collins and Associates provide robust legal solutions for all aspects of separation and divorce, including the division of family property. We guide clients through the financial and legal complexities of property disputes and advocate for their interests in alternative dispute resolution and litigation processes.

How Does the Division of Assets After Divorce Work in Alberta?

In Alberta, the division of property is determined by the Family Property Act, which classifies and divides family property and debts after a marriage breakdown or the separation of a common-law (adult interdependent) relationship.

If you and your former spouse/partner cannot agree on the division of assets, you have up to two years from the date of your separation to file a legal claim. When you do this, you and your former spouse or partner are required to submit statements of all the assets you own (in whole and in part). The court then determines the value of your property and decides on a fair division of the property.

A fair division of property typically means that each spouse receives an equal share. However, there are exceptions when the court deems unequal division as fair because of exceptional circumstances.

What Is “Family Property” in Alberta?

The property you and your former spouse must include in your list of assets will cover family property and exempt property.

Family property is:

  • Owned by one or both spouses or partners;
  • Acquired by one or both spouses or partners during or after the marriage/adult interdependent relationship; and
  • Used to benefit one or both spouses or partners or their children.

Examples of family property include the family home, vehicles, investments, business assets, or household goods.

Which Property Is Exempt From Division?

The following types of assets may be exempt but will require proof of exemption in court:

  • Property purchased by one spouse or partner before the marriage;
  • Inheritances;
  • Insurance proceeds;
  • Gifts received from a third party; and
  • Awards or legal settlements designated for one spouse or partner.

If you had a legally binding domestic contract in place, it may supersede the Family Property Act for the division of property.

How Is the Value of Exempt Property Determined?

The value of exempt property is determined by the market value at the time the property was acquired or when the marriage began. If the value of the property increased during the marriage, the increase in value may be divided between the spouses or partners in a way the court considers just and fair.

The court makes this assessment based on several factors, such as:

  • Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage (or each partner’s contribution to the relationship);
  • The financial situation of each spouse or partner;
  • Any agreements the spouses or partners made;
  • The duration of the marriage or relationship;
  • Existing court orders; and
  • Tax liabilities incurred when transferring or selling the family home.

The increase in value of exempt property is often divided equally between the spouses or partners if it’s considered a product of the marriage or relationship.

What if My Spouse Is a Joint Owner of Exempt Property?

If you want to keep the full value of exempt property, the property must be only in the original owner’s name or traceable to an account in the owner’s name. You will lose part of the exemption value in the following situations:

  • If your spouse or partner is a joint owner of the exempt property;
  • If the property is combined with other property so that it loses its traceability;
  • If you spend the funds; or
  • If the property was a gift from a third party to both spouses or partners.

How Can I Protect My Assets From Division in Case of Divorce?

The only way to ensure your assets are protected from division in case of divorce is to put a legally binding prenuptial agreement, cohabitation agreement, or separation agreement in place. Without this, the division of property is decided by the court.

Getz Collins and Associates Provide Comprehensive Family Property Division Services in Calgary, Strathmore & Across Alberta

The knowledgeable family and divorce lawyers at Getz Collins and Associates understand the complex landscape of family property division laws and help clients navigate the separation and divorce process by providing trusted, pragmatic advice. We offer flexible service packages and cost-effective fee arrangements to accommodate our clients’ particular circumstances. Comprised of a team of proud Albertans, our firm combines a client-centric, community-minded approach with modern innovation to create quality family law solutions, no matter how complex the file.

A mainstay of the Alberta legal community since 1984, Getz Collins and Associates has convenient locations in Calgary and Strathmore. We proudly serve clients in communities across Alberta, including Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks, Drumheller, Chestermere, Hussar, and all surrounding areas. To schedule a confidential consultation on your family law matter, please contact us online or call 587-391-5600.