Keep in mind, however, that everything is negotiable. Deciding who pays for ongoing home expenses during the separation, who foots the travel costs to see the kids, even what utilities and discretionary expenses will be paid and by whom, are all part of the process.
Sadly, this is when nasty tactics might occur. For instance, the spouse who leaves the marital home can stop making mortgage and housing payments, or be routinely late in making those payments. It’s a technique designed to hurt the other spouse, who is relying on those payments, so that any settlement, even an unfair settlement, will start to look good. But don’t be fooled. Even if your soon-to-be ex is unco-operative or withholding financial support, it’s possible to proceed with a divorce and to sort out the family home.
The key is to remember this is all temporary and, eventually, a formal settlement will force your spouse to face reality. Until that formal hearing, however, just be sure you continue to pay your mortgage and all associated housing and utility costs. As long as your name remains on the mortgage (and other utility bills), you are financially liable for the debt even if you no longer occupy or have anything to do with the property.
“Even if you both agree that your spouse will keep the house, as long as your name appears on the mortgage, you are legally responsible for that debt,” says Judith Muratoff, a real estate agent in Maple Ridge, B.C., and one of the few divorce specialists in the province. Neglecting to make those payments could destroy your credit score and your chance at qualifying for a mortgage or loan in the near future.
Keep a paper trail of all payments and, when you head into court, bring the itemized and documented list of what you paid, and when. The courts will factor this into their calculations for the final estate split.
What to do if a spouse is lying or hiding assets
In Canada, family law is dictated by provincial law, but despite small differences, most jurisdictions make it fairly easy for a divorcing couple to predict, in advance, how assets and property will be divided, and the support entitlements each is entitled to.
For a minority of people, however, this ability to predict will prompt attempts to lie about income or hide assets, in an attempt to lower the possible hefty child or spousal support obligation to the other spouse.
These “creative” tricks can include dubious transfers to corporations or offshore accounts, or making notional “gifts” to extended family or friends. Regardless of the tactic, each is designed to put assets out of easy reach. One method is to transfer money or property to another family member in an effort to remove the asset from the equalization process.