Property and Debt

The rules about dividing property and debt apply to people who are married spouses and unmarried spouses. There are two categories of property under the Family Law Act:

Family property is property that is owned by you, your spouse or together at the date you separated. That means property that was bought after the date you got married or started to live together. It includes things like the family home and car, as well as retirement savings plans and pensions.

Family property is usually shared between the spouses after separation.

Excluded property is property that you or your spouse had before you got married or started to live together. Again, it is property like land, buildings, and bank account savings.  It also includes some property you or your spouse got after the date you got married or started to live together, like gifts, inheritances, court awards, and insurance settlements.

A spouse usually does not have to divide excluded property with the other spouse after separation.  However, if the excluded property increased in value while you were together, you usually have to share that increase in value.

What the law says about debt

Under the Family Law Act (FLA), after separation both spouses are responsible for any family debt, which is usually shared equally. However creditors can demand payment only from the spouse whose name the debt is in. The rules of the act do not apply to creditors. Remember, this applies to married and unmarried spouses.

Family debt includes:

  • Debts that either you or your spouse got into during the relationship up to the date of separation.
  • Debts that you or your spouse got into after separation if it is to maintain the family property.  For example, to pay for a new roof or the mortgage.

Property and debt after separation can be complicated.  It is often important to see a lawyer for advice.

For more see, How to divide property and debts on the Family Law in BC website.

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