1. Welcome - The Law of Family Property Part 1

What is family property law?

In Nova Scotia, a married spouse can apply to court for an order to divide the family’s assets at the end of the relationship.

Registered domestic partners can also apply. Registered domestic partners are common law partners who have registered their relationship with Vital Statistics (see here).

The purpose of the law is to recognize that both spouses contribute to building the family’s assets, even if the property is not in both of their names. They should usually walk away with 50% of the property they have built together.

A spouse or registered domestic partner may make an application to court when either spouse files for divorce, when the parties have separated, or when one of the spouses has died.

Spouses and partners may also make an agreement which requires them to divide their property in a certain way.

Who shares property at the end of the relationship?

Only married spouses and registered domestic partners are normally required share assets 50-50 at the end of their relationship.

Unmarried persons who live together as a family, also known as “common law partners” are not currently covered by the same law. This means that common law partners are not normally required to divide their matrimonial assets 50-50. They can make an application to court to divide the property that they earned together in some cases, but the rules are not as clear.

What property is divided?

The property that is normally divided is all of the property that the spouses and registered partners own, together or individually, with certain exceptions (see next page).  

The included assets are normally divided 50-50.

Do we only divide property we get during the relationship?

No. Property which either spouse or registered partner owned before the marriage or relationship is normally included in the 50-50 division when the relationship ends.

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