Q: I am married with two kids under 10 years of age. Both myself and my spouse are gainfully employed and we are in the process of separating. At what point in time, during this process and until there is a final separation agreement, are our earnings not considered common property? I live in Ontario.
A: There are two very separate issues regarding income/support and property. The first thing to understand is support is governed by federal rules and property is governed by provincial laws. For the most part, income is not considered property. The only time the two become intermingled is if the income is derived from a business that will also be looked to as property in the division of assets,
Up until there is legal separation agreement that clearly sets out any support requirements, both parties are legally obligated to meet all the financial requirements of marriage. The only time there is a clear indication of who is responsible for what debt, or who retains what asset, is when both parties have signed and agreed to a separation or when there has been a court document outlining the terms and conditions.
The division of property and support issues can either be agreed upon by both parties, using professionals such as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CFDA) and a lawyer who are willing to give independent legal advice. Or, they can be agreed upon by both parties using the appropriate professionals and engaging in alternative dispute resolution or hiring a lawyer who will support you through litigation.
Studies show that people who are able to work through the issues and stay in control of the situation are always much happier and the costs are much less.
Debbie Hartzman is a Certified Financial Planner, a Chartered Life Underwriter and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst in Kingston, Ont. She is also the author of ‘Divorce is not easy, but it can be fair.’
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