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We're not married. What if we can't agree on what happens to our property and debts after we separate?
Sometimes you and your partner may not be able to agree on what happens with your property and debts, with or without the help of lawyers. In this situation, family law says you both must think about getting help to resolve your issues out of court.
Family law professionals are people who are trained to work with both of you to help you reach an agreement or make a decision for you, without going to court. They use processes such as mediation or arbitration.
These out-of-court-options are sometimes called alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or family dispute resolution processes. If ADR doesn’t work, or if it isn’t suitable for your situation, then you can go to court and ask a judge to decide.
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.
The usual time limit to make a claim for a share of property that is not real estate, such as for an interest in your common-law partner's business or car, is 2 years after you separate.
Sometimes a court gives you more time. But you have to explain why you needed more time to make a property claim.
If you signed a cohabitation agreement but one of you no longer wants to follow it, you or your partner can ask the court to make an order that divides your property in the way you agreed to in your agreement.