If my spouse and I hold property in joint names, how does that affect the division of property on separation and divorce?

If spouses hold property in joint names, the law presumes that you intend to share that property equally. When you and your spouse separate, once joint tenancy is severed, you will be presumed to each have an equal one-half interest in the property. Therefore, although it may be that one party did not contribute financially to the house during the relationship, that non-contributing spouse may be entitled to half of the profit (or half of the outstanding debt) from the eventual sale of the house because their name is on title.

This same principle works with money deposited into a jointly held bank account. If both spouses’ names are on the account, the law presumes, unless there is evidence to the contrary, that each spouse is entitled to a one-half interest in the balance of the account (in the red or in the black) on separation.

This article is not intended to dissuade you from holding property in joint names with your spouse. I simply caution you to understand the result of holding property in joint names. Of course, the value of your family property that is held in either spouse’s name individually may also need to be divided between you and your spouse on separation, depending on a number of factors as set out in the provincial legislation.