Domestic issues

My wife and I had a terrible argument. We were married in California in Feb and until now we were happy. Now she wants to change the locks on the door and lock me out. The house is in her name, and although I invested funds in the property she threatens to change the locks What are my rights?

Asked 12 months ago in Windsor, Ontario
Categories: Family Law

Answer Now

John  P. Schuman, C.S.

Answer by John P. Schuman, C.S.

VerifiedOntario lawyer

Since you and your wife are married, the home (or homes) in which you lived together, and separated are special.  They are "matrimonial homes."   In Ontario, on separation and until there is a Divorce Order, both spouses are equally entitled to stay in the matrimonial home, regardless of who owns it. That means your spouse cannot do anything to "kick you out" or prevent you from going back into your home other than getting a court order that you have to leave.   Click this link for a lot more information on spouses' rights to stay in matrimonial homes. 

It is important to note that spouses who are not legally married (common law couples) do not have matrimonial homes and common law couples do not have rights under Ontario Family Law to stay in a home after separation.   There may be things a common law spouse can do under land lord tenant law or other laws.  But, if the end of the relationship is going that badly, speak to a top family law lawyer right away.

That you contributed to the value in the home may give you an ownership interest in the property under the Principles of Equity.   Those principles operate when spouses treated a home owned by one of them as if it was really owned by both of them and one spouse has lost out as a result. Clearly that is not fair, and fairness is what the Principles of Equity are about.  However, for married spouses, making a claim under Equity for an interest in a property is harder because the value of matrimonial homes is always included in Ontario's Equalization of Property on separation - unless there is a marriage contract.  If the value of the home is already being shared, one spouse does not really lose out unless there is a big change in the value of a matrimonial home after separation.  Consult with a lawyer if that may be the case.

Hopefully, if a spouse changes the locks, the police will recognize the other spouse's rights under Part 2 of the Family Law Act.  But if the police will not assist with gaining access to the home, it may be time to start the Family Court Process.

You can get a lot more information about Ontario Family Law issues, including property division, support, and most other common family law issues by downloading this $9.99 Kindle eBook, Kobo eBook, or iBook for your iPad or iPhone or ordering it from Amazon as a paperback. But, it is always best to speak to a good family law lawyer.

Posted 10 months ago

John Schuman is a Certified Specialist in Family Law.  He is the partner managing the Family Law Group at Devry Smith Frank LLP, a full service law firm located near Eglinton and the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto. Learn more about John! Call him at 416-446-5080 or 416-446-5847 or email Listen to the Ontario Family Law Podcast!

Please note that this is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice to you. Legal advice pertaining to your particular situation can only be provided by a lawyer who has met with you to obtain all pertinent background information necessary to give you a formal legal opinion. For formal legal advice, hire a lawyer (many give a free first consultation). Contact John P. Schuman, C.S., or search the Lawyer Directory.

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