I Agreed to an Unfair Family Court Order Equalizing Property -  Can I Change It?


To understand why it can be more difficult to change an unfair order for property division than to change an order for child support or spousal support, it is important to understand a little about Ontario Law on property division after a marriage. After that explanation, I will explain how to go about changing a court order made on consent (meaning the parties agreed to it) because of a mistake.

Ontario Family Law Podcast

9 - Property Division in Ontario After Marriage

2 - Options for Resolving Matters After Separation

When married spouses divorce or separate, one of the main issues that common arises is property division or, as it is known in Ontario, equalization of net family properties.  When married spouses separate, they are entitled to an equalization of their net family properties under Part I of the Family Law Act. This means that married spouses are entitled to divide the increase in their net worth that arose during the marriage.  To understand how “equalization” works after a marriage, listen to his podcast. However common-law or cohabiting spouses do not have a right to an equalization or division of property on separation.  To understand what they can do to divide or share their property, listen to this podcast about common relationships  and listen to this podcast about common law separation and property division.

This page relates to how you change your divorce order, or other Family Court Order dealing with property. Spouses who arrive at a settlement regarding property can either have the settlement finalized as a court order or a separation agreement. If you plan to have the settlement reduced to a judicial order, you should watch the video below  how family court works. If you plan to have a separation agreement, you should listen to this blog on how to create a valid and enforceable separation agreement.   If you need to change a separation agreement, then read this page on getting out of a bad separation agreement

If you aren’t sure as to the best way to resolve your issues after separation, you should listen to this podcast.

Where a party wishes to change a court order or separation agreement, generally they have to demonstrate that a ‘material change in circumstances’ has occurred. If the change sought is in relation to child support, the party seeking the change must demonstrate a material change in relation to the needs, means or circumstances of the child. For spousal support, the change must be in relation to the needs, means or circumstances of the party seeking the variation. In terms of an order or agreement regarding equalization, the ‘material change’ test does not apply.  Equalization is based on what the spouses had on the date of marriage and the date of separation and that does not change over time because it is based on what the spouse owned on two fixed dates in the past.  Since these facts do not change,  the procedure of a motion to change is not appropriate.

If a party wishes to change an order related to equalization, they have to rely on Rule 25 of the Family Law Rules , which allows a court to set aside an order where the order was obtained by fraud or contains a mistake. However, it is extremely hard to prove fraud as you will have to prove that your spouse intended to mislead the court.   If you believe that your ex has committed fraud,  you should speak to an experienced family law lawyer now. These are extremely difficult claims to make and you should only seek advice from a lawyer with experience in this area.

If you and your spouse made a mistake in calculations that you gave to the judge to get your court order to equalize your property, or if you had the value of one or more assets wrong, then you can ask for a correction to the Order under Rule 25.  There may have been a “mistake” if one or both spouses did not provide proper, accurate or adequate financial disclosure. This is a reason why proper financial disclosure is very important in family court.  You may get into a bit of an argument with your ex if one of you thinks there was a mistake and the other does not.  The judge has to be convinced that there was a mistake in order to change the order.

There is another important consideration.  Section 7(3) of the Family Law Act says that a judge cannot make an order with respect to equalization if the parties have been separated for more than six years, divorced for more than two years, or one spouse died more than six months ago, which ever is first.   So, your spouse (or his or her estate) may tell the court that the order cannot be fixed if those time limits have passed.  If the time limit has passed, then you really need to speak to a good family lawyer to see if anything can be done.

Book - Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law

To learn even more about equalization and how to change a court order, you may want to get a copy of this easy-to-understand book on the basics of Ontario Family Law as a paperback, or as a $9.99 e-book for KindleKobo, or iPad/iPhone/Mac.  You may also want to listen to this podcast or watch this video. You can also use the search on the right to find lots more articles about marriage and divorce, and family law land family court issues on just above every topic.

Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law Available on Kindle
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After separation,  it is always better to do things right the first time.  Fixing thing later can be complex and difficult.   To make sure you do the right things the first or second time, around, you really should discuss your particular case with an excellent family law lawyer.   Contact Certified Specialist in Family Law (and author of the book to the left), John Schuman, by emailing him, calling 416-446-5847, or using the contact form below.  We answer all inquiries promptly and we can arrange for you to come in quickly for a consultation (charged at a reduced hourly rate).

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