Q. My spouse of 25 years has informed me that she wants a divorce. We have always banked our own earnings, but I worry that, through the divorce process, she will be able to capitalize on my family’s business assets, our home and my personal bank account. I don’t feel that I should have to lose my financial security so she can live the high life. Am I obligated to comply?
A. Ali, you have not stated what province you live in and each province has its own laws when it comes to the sharing of family property. In Ontario, all assets grown during the time of the marriage—including business assets—become family property and are valued for the purposes of equalization. (If you live in a province other than Ontario, this Government of Canada website provides basic information on division of property, and can help you find resources where you live.)
Unfortunately, the courts do not look at the reason for the marriage breakdown, and although it does seem unfair to the party who did not initiate the separation that the other party is entitled to 50% equity in the family estate.
As far as whether or not you have to comply, all I can tell you is this: There is little you can do to stop the process and, although you are the one who stands to lose, delaying and non-compliance will end up costing you more in the end. If you work with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) and a lawyer who is interested in helping you settle the fairest and least confrontational way possible, you will not add insult to injury by racking up exorbitant costs only to end up with the same results. A CDFA can help you gather your information and help you see different scenarios so you can choose one that is most palatable to you and present it to your soon-to-be-ex-spouse as an offer to settle.
In the end, the sting will lessen, and you will be able to move forward and rebuild your financial security.
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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