Couples engaged in contested family court cases will soon have to attend mandatory information programs, which will include information about the effects of separation and divorce on families and ways to resolve their issues – including decisions about the matrimonial home – through ways other than going to court.
The matrimonial home is a home(s) that a couple lived in at the time of their separation. In Ontario, the matrimonial home is considered a unique asset – different from other types of property – and falls under the Family Law Act.
"Selling the matrimonial home after a marriage breakdown is extremely complicated," says Barbara Sukkau, president of the Ontario Real Estate Association. "Even if they have agreed in the settlement who gets the home, or that neither will, there are a lot of decisions and steps that must continue to be made together on the property front," she added.
It is essential for example that both spouses have signed off on important documents like the listing agreement and agreement of purchase and sale. Even if one spouse is not a registered owner of the home, he or she must still provide consent for the sale.
Another decision that must be made by both parties is whether or not renovations need to be done to the home to maximize the selling price. The wish for one half of the divorcing couple to move on with the next phase of their life as soon as possible has to be balanced by the need by the other for cold hard cash to fund a new single lifestyle.
Sukkau recommends that after getting legal counsel for the settlement that couples seek the help of a Realtor. In fact it’s important that as a first step couples tell their Realtor why they’ve decided to sell, as it greatly impacts the way the sale will be handled.
In order to trade in real estate in Ontario all practitioners must pass a comprehensive program of study laid down by the Real Estate Council of Ontario and satisfy the requirement of continuing education for all registrants under the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002
(REBBA 2002). This includes many hours of study in family law that enables a Realtor to ensure that the sale is processed in such a way that both sides are ultimately satisfied.
"A Realtor will ensure that couples are in the position to accept the best offer for their home when it comes by getting them to agree in advance on their rules and thresholds for accepting an offer," says Sukkau. "It can be extremely helpful to have a plan going in when the ability to negotiate or compromise is in short supply."
As a facilitator, a Realtor will keep the lines of communication open, even if it means meeting with each spouse separately to ensure they both are comfortable with the process – and when necessary, directing the couple to consult with lawyers should there be any uncertainty.
To learn more about how a Realtor can help sell a home visit www.howrealtorshelp.ca.
About the Ontario Real Estate Association
The Ontario Real Estate Association represents 50,000 brokers and salespeople who are members of the 42 real estate boards throughout the province. OREA serves its REALTOR® members through a wide variety of professional publications, educational programs, advocacy, and other services. orea.com