It is usually not a good idea to leave the matrimonial home until you have met with a lawyer and understand your rights and obligations with respect to staying or going. On the other hand, in situations involving family violence, safety of the parties and other family members absolutely comes first. If you leave for safety reasons, you can apply afterward, if the circumstances warrant, for an order for sole occupancy which means you can move back in and the violent spouse will need to stay away.

If there is no family violence, and both parties want to stay, it is best to reach an agreement to either share the living space as “roommates” in an interim arrangement, or, if this is impossible, make an agreement that one will leave on adequate terms such that the leaving partner will be able to obtain reasonable alternative housing.

Sometimes an owning party can unilaterally change the locks on the house and effectively kick the other party out. If both parties are owning parties, then either could conceivably change the locks. Such a step may have consequences, however. If one party changes the locks and prevents the other from residing in the home, the court may construe this as ouster, or forced removal, from the family home. If one party is ousted (where there are no safety reasons for the ouster), the ousted party may be entitled to compensation from the party who remained in the home. This compensation may be calculated as a portion of the rent the ousted party paid while living away from the family home, or as a portion of the sum the family home could have rented for. In C. (J.D.) v. C. (K.L.M.F.) 2014 BCSC 2182, the court calculated that the ousted party paid rent of $800 per month for 54 months. This resulted in a reapportionment of the family assets in favour of the ousted party in the sum of $43,200.