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How to protect wealth in the family law process

For most divorcing couples, financial concerns are top-of-mind. The distribution of assets and future financial support make up the bulk of the family law process in most Alberta separations. Fortunately, there are preventative measures that can be taken to avoid an unfair or drawn-out break-up. The earlier these issues are discussed in a marriage, the easier the process will be.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking that keeping property or wealth separate will automatically protect it during the divorce. For example, someone may choose to keep a property in their name and believe this means it will stay in their ownership should their marriage end. This is, quite simply, not the case. While separate bank accounts can be practical for many couples during a marriage, it does not guarantee a separation of assets during a divorce.

If the intention of separate finances is for wealth to remain separate in the case of divorce, then this must be written into a legal contract. This is known as a prenuptial agreement. For these agreements to stand in an Alberta court, they must clearly be mutually beneficial and be signed by both parties with full knowledge of the arrangement and no duress.

Another way to avoid being stuck with a decision the court thinks is "fair," even if it does not reflect one's own understanding, is to use a collaborative process in defining asset division. The family law process in Alberta leaves space for couples parting ways to negotiate their own arrangement without a judge's involvement. The first step in any of these processes, whether one is seeking a prenuptial agreement or support in a negotiation, is to contact a family lawyer.

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