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 list of what you and your spouse own

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

  • bank accounts
  • RRSPs
  • TFSAs
  • pensions
  • cars
  • properties (for example, land, houses, or apartments)
  • anything else you own
  • any debts

Get as much information as you can about all of these.

If you can't keep the original documents for anything, make copies instead.

Make a note of your separation date

The date you and your spouse separated is important because whatever you own and whatever you owe on the date you separate will be considered family property when you divide your property and debts.

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

Protect any real property from being sold or borrowed against

Land and houses (including condos, apartments, cottages, etc.) are known as real property.

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

What's the difference between filing an entry and filing a CPL?

Depending on your situation, you can:

  • file an entry under the Land (Spouse Protection) Act, or
  • file a CPL under the Land Title Act.

Look at the table to see which one looks like it would work best for you.

Entry under the Land (Spouse Protection) Act CPL under the Land Title Act
Stops the property from being sold without the permission of the person who filed the entry Lets anyone who looks at the title know that there's a legal dispute about the property and prevents an owner from transferring the property or getting a new mortgage
Only people who have been married or have been living in a marriage-like relationship for two years can file Spouses and people who've been living together in a marriage like relationship for less than two years can file
You don't have to start a court case Court case must have been started (by filing a Notice of Family Claim)
Only one spouse is the registered owner of the property Both spouses are registered owners of the property
Can be filed only against the family home Can be filed against any real property you're making a claim for in the Notice of Family Claim or Counterclaim
The spouse filing the entry mustn't be divorced when they file it, and protection ends when the divorce order is made Protection continues as long as certificate is filed
Must be filed within one year of one spouse moving out of the family home Can be filed anytime after you separate
Property must be in BC Property must be in BC
Person applying can live outside of BC and can be younger than 19 Person applying must live in BC and be 19 or older
You need a lawyer or a notary public to help you file with the Land Title and Survey Authority Office (electronic filing only) You can file on your own at the Land Title and Survey Authority Office (electronic or in-person filing)

You'll need a lawyer or notary public to help you file an entry under the Land (Spouse Protection) Act.

You can get the forms on the CanLII website. But they have to be filed electronically by someone with a Land Title and Survey Authority Enterprise Account. Often lawyers and notaries have these accounts.

To file a certificate:

  1. Get a Notice of Family Claim (Form F3) or Counterclaim (Form F5) and ask for an interest in the property. To do this, fill out Schedule 4 and include the property in the Schedule as part of your claim. Check "The claimant is applying for a Certificate of Pending Litigation to be registered against the following real property:" then list the property in the space that follows. (If you've already filed your Notice of Family Claim or Counterclaim and didn't check this box, you can still apply for the certificate.)
  2. Get a title search of the property from the Land Title and Survey Authority.
  3. Fill out a Certificate of Pending Litigation [FLA] form (Form 33 — Land Title Act).
  4. Take the Notice of Family Claim or Counterclaim that you've filed at the court registry and the completed certificate to the land title office.

To find your nearest land title office, call the Land Title and Survey Authority Customer Service Centre between 8 am and 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday:

604-630-9630 (Greater Vancouver)
1-877-577-5872 (elsewhere in BC)

Staff at the Land Title and Survey Authority can't give you legal advice or help you with forms.

If you need help, speak to a lawyer or notary public before you go to the office to file your certificate.

How do you file a Notice of Property Agreement under the Family Law Act?

If you have an agreement that deals with your real property (land or houses), you can file a Notice of Property Agreement against the title of the property with the Land Title and Survey Authority (see section 99 of the Family Law Act).

You can do this even if you haven't gone to court yet. The notice will stop the other person (the law calls them the other party) from doing the following things to the property while the notice is in place:

  • transferring it
  • selling it
  • leasing it
  • doing anything else with it

If you want to file a Notice of Property Agreement:

  1. Fill out a Notice of Property Agreement (Form 41 — Land Title Act).
  2. Ask someone to witness you signing it. Your witness also has to sign it.
  3. Take the signed and witnessed notice to the land title office.

To find your nearest land title office, call the Land Title and Survey Authority Customer Service Centre between 8 am and 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday:

604-630-9630 (Greater Vancouver)
1-877-577-5872 (elsewhere in BC)

Staff at the Land Title and Survey Authority can't give you legal advice or help you with forms.

If you need help, speak to a lawyer or notary public before you go to the office to file your certificate.

How do you apply for a restraining order (or other court orders affecting property)?

The BC Supreme Court can make interim orders about property before you make any final decisions or get final orders about how you're going to divide your property.

If you're worried that the other person might do something with the property to stop you from getting your fair share, you can apply for an order to stop them from selling or transferring it.

This is sometimes called a restraining order. It's useful if:

You can also ask the court for other types of interim orders. For example, you could ask for an order that says:

These types of orders don't affect:

  • your or your spouse's ownership rights, or
  • the final division of property.

If you want to apply for an order like this, you need to start a court action by filing a Notice of Family Claim. See our step-by-step guide Start a family law case to get a new order in Provincial Court or Start a family law case to get a new order in Supreme Court for help with this.

If it's urgent, you can apply for the order without telling the other person first. This is called making an order without notice.

But if you do that, you have to be very careful to give the court all the information (disclosure) you have about your situation. This means you need to tell them things that might not help your case.

If you don't tell the court everything, they can set aside the order (replace your order with another one) and make you pay costs to the other person.

Where can you find out more about protecting your property?

For more information about protecting property (and dealing with debts) in family law matters, see: