Is My Professional Degree a Marital Asset?
During separation negotiations, the value of your advanced or professional degree may come into question. If you attained the degree during the marriage, your spouse may argue that it is considered property, and therefore subject to an equal division of its value. It is important that you understand the worth of the degree and its place among your assets.
What is Considered a Professional Degree?
A professional degree is a degree that prepares you for practical work in a specific field, typically requiring advanced education beyond university.
A professional degree requires several years of study and can be attained in many fields, from medical practice and law to architecture and engineering. A professional degree can be used as accreditation to work in a specific field. Because professional degrees require further training and study, it can mean a higher income from whichever field you choose to pursue.
Is My Professional Degree Considered a Family Asset?
The degree itself does not meet the legal definition of property under Ontario’s Family Law Act as it cannot be valued. It lacks characteristics in common with assets: it cannot be transferred, gifted, sold, purchased, or be subject to change ownership in any fashion.
Pursuing an advanced professional education can cause strain on your income, particularly in the early years of marriage. One spouse may take on the extra personal and household financial responsibilities to support the spouse in school. If the student spouse remains financially dependent subsequent to graduation and there is a breakdown of the relationship, the supporting spouse may face a claim for temporary or ongoing spousal support.