Protecting yourself financially after you separate

Provincial Court
Supreme Court

If you've separated from your spouse, you might be worried about what could happen to your property while you're trying to agree about how it'll be divided.

Here are some things you can do to protect your property while you wait for your final agreements or court orders.

Make a note of your separation date

The date you and your spouse separated is important, as any money you earn after you separate is yours to keep. It isn't family property. Other property, like houses and investments, is valued and divided at the time of trial or when you make an agreement. The court won't use its value at the time you separated to work out how much each person gets.

To make it clear you've separated, you can tell people or write down the date it happened so you remember.

Make a list of what you and your spouse own

As soon as you separate, start collecting information about your and your spouse's assets (things you own), property, and money (savings and debts). Make a list of:

  • bank accounts
  • RRSPs
  • TFSAs
  • pensions
  • cars
  • properties (for example, land, houses, or apartments)
  • points on any loyalty or points cards (Air Miles, Avion, etc.)
  • jewellery
  • anything else you own
  • any debts

Get as much information as you can about all of these and gather up as many documents about them as you can find.

Gather up your and your spouse's:

  • tax returns (personal and corporate)
  • credit card statements
  • life insurance policies
  • wills

Make copies of all the documents.

  • Take the originals of any paperwork that belongs to you (for example, your tax returns) and leave a copy or be prepared to provide a copy of it later on.
  • Take the originals of any paperwork that relates to anything you share with your spouse (for example, bank statements for any joint bank accounts you have with your spouse) and leave a copy or be prepared to provide a copy of it later on.
  • Take the copies of any paperwork that belongs to your spouse (for example, their tax returns) and leave the originals.

If you have any personal property that's very valuable or special to you:

  • make a list of the property,
  • take a photo of it,
  • take it with you (if you leave) or give it to someone you trust to look after, and
  • be prepared to share your list with your spouse.

Valuable personal property includes things like:

  • wedding bands
  • expensive jewellery
  • gold
  • art
  • stamp collections
  • Bitcoin passwords
If you take anything like this with you, you have to include it in any lists of assets when your property and your spouse's property is being divided. You're not taking it to keep it for yourself. You’re taking it to keep it safe.

When people separate, valuable items like jewellery often go missing and both spouses say the other person took it. When that happens, the items rarely turn up later. If there's something in your home that can't be replaced or is very valuable:

  • get it out of the house,
  • take a picture of it, and
  • be ready to share the picture if you're asked.

Keep your personal documents safe

Whether you're leaving the family home or staying there, keep the following documents in a safe place where you can find them quickly and easily:

  • Your driver's licence
  • Your and your children's SIN cards
  • Your and your children's passports
  • Your and your children's citizenship cards, permanent residency cards, or immigration papers

Ask someone you trust to look after them for you or put them in a safety deposit box.

If you have children, store their personal documents with a lawyer or in a bank so that:

  • you and your spouse both have access to your children's documents, and
  • you both need to be there if one of you wants to take out any of the documents (for example, the children's passports).

Protect your bank accounts and credit cards

Call your bank and ask them to:

  • put a limit on how much cash can be taken out of any joint accounts by one person, and
  • change any joint accounts so that all larger withdrawals need two people's approval.

If all the accounts are in one person's name, you might have to go to court to get a financial restraining order to make sure the person doesn't take all the money out of the account.

If you're the primary account holder (the person responsible for the card) of any shared credit cards, call your credit card company and lower the limit on the credit card.

Protect any land or house properties from being sold or borrowed against

If you want to protect your property from being sold or borrowed against (used as collateral or security for a loan), you can:

  • file an entry under the Land (Spouse Protection) Act
  • file a Certificate of Pending Litigation (a CPL) under the Land Title Act
  • file a notice of property agreement under the Family Law Act
  • apply for a restraining order related to property under the Family Law Act

This is a complicated process, so speak to a lawyer if you want to do this.

Financial protection

Jaswinder learns how to protect herself financially after separation in our short illustrated story, Finances after separation.

Illustration to introduce story