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We're married. What if we can't agree on what happens to our property and debts after we separate or divorce?
If you and your partner cannot agree on what happens with your property and debts, with or without the help of lawyers, you have two options. You can ask a family law professional to help you resolve your issues. Or, you can go to court and ask a judge to decide.
Family law professionals
There are different types of family law professionals who can help you and your partner resolve your issues. These are neutral people who are trained to work with both of you to help you reach an agreement or make a decision for you.
For example, each family court location in Ontario offers subsidized mediation services. You can get up to 8 hours of mediation for a fee that is based on each person's income. You can use this service whether or not you have a court case. And if you have a court case, you can get up to 2 hours of mediation for free at the court.
These processes are sometimes called alternative dispute resolution (ADR) because they help you solve your issues without going to court.
Go to court
If you and your partner still cannot agree even with the help of a family law professional, or if ADR is not the right option for you, one of you has to start a family law court case.
A family court makes decisions based on the family law rules and laws. Going to court can be a complicated process and it can take a lot of time. It can be stressful and expensive, but it is sometimes necessary to decide your issues.
Changing the process
You don't have to stick with one of these options. Sometimes you can use both or switch from one to the other.
For example, you and your partner might not be able to solve your case with the help of a family law professional, so you decide to go to court.
Or you might start a court case first, but then you and your partner agree to pause the case while you try to reach an agreement with the help of a family law professional.
Sometimes a court gives you more time. But you have to explain why you needed more time to ask for an equalization payment.
If you signed a marriage contract or a cohabitation agreement but one of you no longer wants to follow it, that person may ask the court for an order to set aside the marriage contract. This means the court allows them not to follow all or part of the agreement.
But the other person can ask the court to make an order that divides your property in the way you agreed to in your agreement.
The courts encourage people to decide their issues on their own. So if you have an agreement, the courts won't set aside your agreement easily.