Can my Ex go after my property forever? Or, is there a time limit?  Can I finally buy a new house without worry?

Fancy new house that old spouse is trying to get

There are protections to keep ex-spouses from going after each others’ properties for ever.  However, there are also some times when people can create problems for themselves and virtually give their assets away to their ex long after separation. 

The “Limitation Period” For Property Claims

Under Ontario Law, there is a deadline (called a “limitation period” in legal terms) for making a property claims related to a marriage. (Note that common law couples do not usually share in each other’s assets afters separation.) That limitation period is the earlier of six years from the date the married couple separated, or two years from the date of their divorce. (If you need to know how a "divorce" is different from "separation" or property, support and other claims, listen to this podcast.) 

There are other types of claims that a person can make to property for up to 10 years.  Those are claims in "equity" and they relate only to "real property", which is land (or a condominium or similar.)   Claims in equity arise where a person contributed to the property but did not get anything back, or where the owner of property offered to hold it "in trust" for someone else.  They are extremely complicated claims, so you need to speak to a lawyer if you think they apply to you.  However, if is unlikely that your wife contributed anything to your new home and more unlikely that you promised her anything with respect to your new home. 

It is only in the most exception of circumstances that a court will let a person start a claim after a limitation period has expired.   Those circumstances are where a person missed the limitation period by only a short period and did so because they made an honest mistake because they could not speak to a lawyer in time.  The six year period is a long time, so if you were not in negotiations with her to settle matters during that time, it may be very difficult to bring a claim after the limitation period.

So, your wife can probably not make a claim to any new house that you buy - unless you have made some mistakes.

How Your Ex Can Get Your Property if There is Problem With Support

There are a few situations in which your ex can always come after your assets.  One is where you have not been making your child support or spousal support payments, or it looks like you will not be making those payment in the future (for example, if you indicate that you might move to a country that is not one of the jurisdictions that enforces Canadian Support Orders).  In that case, section 34 of the Family Law Act permits the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to make a court order either transferring property to the support recipient to satisfy some or all of the support owed, or a court order that the property be held as security (by placing a mortgage or lien against it)  for the child or spousal support owed.  There are other ways that falling behind in child support can cause problems, which you can read about here.

How Your Ex Can Cause Problems If You Are Not Divorced and There is a Matrimonial Home

Ex Spouse Taking Money To Allow The Sale of a Matrimonial Home

Another time when you might run into serious trouble is if you are buying your new house by selling a house that you lived in with your wife.  Until you are either divorced, or there is an agreement or divorce order that changes the spouses' legal rights, both spouses MUST provide their consent to sell a property that they lived in together during the marriage because that house is a "matrimonial home" under the law.   There is no time period in which a home stops being a matrimonial home.  You need either a divorce order, or an agreement or court order that says it is not a matrimonial home anymore.  So, if you are selling a house you lived in with her, you have to get her permission, and she may ask for money before she gives it.  To learn more about the problems that can be created by matrimonial homes, watch this video or listen to this podcast

Guide to the Basic of Ontario Family Law (Book)

What To Do If There Are Problems

Whether you have trying to formally end an old relationship, or starting a new one, there can be a lot of thing you need to know about family law to protect yourself.  The best is always to speak to an excellent family law lawyer about your specific situation and get advice tailored for you.  You can also pick up a copy of this $20-easy-to-understand book on Ontario Family Law, which explains property division, matrimonial homes, child and spousal support and many other family law issues, as well as tips on how to avoid common family law problems.

Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law Available on KindleiBookstore_140x70

If you would like to contact Certified Specialist in Family Law, Toronto Divorce Lawyer, John Schuman, please call the phone number at the top of his page, or use the form below.  We respond promptly to all inquiries.   You can also use the form below to comment on this page.

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© John P. Schuman 2014