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Divorce Strategies: Navigating Home Sales with Expert Realtor Insights

This week I'm speaking with Robyn Yack, a real estate sales representative in the GTA. Robyn and her partner, Cheryl are passionate about working with people transitioning through divorce. Today, we're going to touch on the importance of working with a realtor who understands the divorce process, the difference between common law and marriage concerning the matrimonial home, and how you decide if selling your home is the right choice for you. 

When somebody is transitioning through divorce, they're very emotional and they've got a lot to think about. When you sell a home in the best of times, there are a lot of emotions involved. But when you add in the factor of divorce, the emotions are much more heightened. There are so many things that you need to think about that your average realtor doesn't consider or doesn't know if they're not specialized in this area.

An important thing to consider during divorce is if you and your ex-partner are going to work with the same real estate agent. A lot of people think that both parties need to agree on the real estate agent that they're choosing. If it's an amicable divorce, then you might be able to come up with someone that fits both of you. But you don't need to. Each of you can be represented by your own real estate agent, and that ensures that your best interests are being serviced. 

Additionally, there are other things like what will happen when you put the house up for sale. You need to agree on a list price, showing dates, and what repairs, if any, need to be done to get the house ready for listing. If you need to do repairs then who will be paying for them? Working with family lawyers is important because they help both parties come to an agreement. 

In such a process, there are more intricacies such as co-listing because you're dealing with two brokerages, so who's going to take the lead, who's going to receive the offers, and what kind of communication is going to happen between the two agents. So while it is ideal if you can agree on an agent, it's not your only option. When it comes to matrimonial homes, it doesn't matter if both your names are on the title. If one name is on the title, then the other party needs to provide spousal consent to sell it. In some cases, depending on the situation, one party wants to have the sole rights to sell and make all the decisions, in such a situation a court order would come into play and then there's only one party to deal with.

It is also important to know your separation date in writing because the separation date is the date that all property and assets are determined. So when the lawyers factor in the equalization process of the assets, it's that date that they look to. If you don’t have this date in writing, it could cause problems in the divorce process. 

Additionally, it is important to understand the difference between marriage and common law concerning the matrimonial home. A lot of people have misconceptions about common law. They think that if you've been living together as common law spouses, you have all the same rights as a married couple, when in fact, concerning the matrimonial home, there are no rights when it comes to common law. The matrimonial home has significance in the Divorce Act, and that does not apply to common-law couples. When it comes to property for common law couples, including the matrimonial home, the way the assets will be divided is based on the title. If only one person's name is on the title, then that person can sell the property without the approval or consent of the other spouse. And even if both partners’ names are on the title, it needs to be clear what percentage of the property each partner owns because having both parties on the title does not mean they own the property 50/50. It's based on how much each party has contributed, what kind of joint asset they have, and what percentage each owns. 

Now if you’ve been living common law and there was no agreement made and you’re now facing a divorce or separation, this can cause a big problem. In such cases, both parties need to dig out documents and paperwork to see who invested how much, whose name is on the title, and what the purchasing situation was for the assets based on the records available. 

For example, when a married couple buys a home, they might get support for the down payment from their family. So let's say there's a marriage breakdown and the wife's parents gave $50,000. Well, that $50,000 is not going to go back to the wife. Technically, only $25,000 because she's only allowed 50%. In this case, family lawyers are saying it's important to have some form of a record, be it a mortgage or something, if you want that full amount to go back to the party that contributed it. Years ago, the word prenuptial agreement was so taboo. People would get insulted if the other party approached this topic. But now it's much more common. We strongly recommend that you take this process.

A lot of people think that staying in the matrimonial home is in the best interest of the children. And so they try to find the best way to make it work. Sometimes, staying in the matrimonial home for the best interest of the children is not the right thing to do. The memories that kids have in that home, stay with them as opposed to starting fresh. And the longer you delay that, the more it hurts. It is also the case sometimes that the person who tries to remain in the matrimonial house ends up struggling financially because now the one income pays for the same mortgage and all the same expenses. And it's usually the moms that want to stay. They just are more emotionally attached to their home than their ex-husbands. And they do think that this is best for their kids, especially if the husband is the one leaving. When it comes to the kids, in this process, they will be fine moving on to a new place and setting up their new room, it all comes back to how the parent handles the situation. 

We must remember that children living in a home with parents who aren't happy together feel the tension between the parents. So as much as we feel like our children are suffering because of our divorce, the reality is they will be far better off in two homes with two happy parents than in one home with their parents living together miserably.

Three important takeaways from this conversation are:

  1. Reach out to a real estate agent who specializes in divorce/separation because they will help guide you on what your possibilities are based on your situation.

  2. Make sure that if you're going down this road or if you have already started this path that you are working on or have your separation agreement signed because you have to understand that if you're going to sell your matrimonial home and you do not have a signed separation agreement, the funds will remain with the lawyers until you can get this agreed upon. 

  3. Understand that your matrimonial home may not be the main home that you live in. There could potentially be more than one matrimonial home. For example, if you have a house in the GTA, but also have a cottage in Muskoka that the family goes to in the summers, that would also be considered a matrimonial home. So you must understand all of these things and an experienced real estate agent can guide you best. 

If you are transitioning through a divorce and are looking for experts to guide you through property matters, you can reach out to Robyn through her website

Remember you're perfect, you're worthy, you’re loved, and you will get through this. 




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