Cohabitation Agreements

Stouffville Cohabitation Agreements Family Lawyers

Couples are increasingly choosing to live together in a common-law relationship instead of, or prior to marrying. Since the property rights and protections under Ontario’s Family Law Act do not extend to common-law couples, a comprehensive cohabitation agreement can be used to establish the rights and entitlements that aren’t otherwise available under Ontario or Canadian family legislation. No matter the motivation for creating the agreement, it will help provide a framework with respect to issues such as property division and spousal support, helping a couple avoid costly litigation in the future.

It is important to review these considerations with a skilled family lawyer before signing an agreement to ensure your interests are adequately protected. At Shariff & Associates, our family lawyers work with clients at all stages of a common-law relationship to create a cohabitation agreement custom-tailored to their specific needs. No matter how complex your circumstances may be, we will guide you through the process of designing a comprehensive agreement to protect your interests.

We always recommend that couples entering a common-law relationship create a cohabitation agreement early on to ensure both parties are on the same page with respect to these issues right from the start.

What Should You Include in a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement can serve dual purposes. For couples who plan to remain as common-law, a cohabitation agreement allows you to set your own terms should the relationship eventually break down. If you are living together with a plan to eventually marry, your cohabitation agreement can later transition to a marriage contract, protecting you in both circumstances. However, certain rights differ in a marriage vs. a common-law relationship, so it will be important to plan for this during the drafting process.

In either scenario, a cohabitation agreement can help set out each person’s rights and obligations around the following issues, should the relationship come to an end:

  • Entitlements with respect to spousal support
  • The division of property
  • Rights to the family home (particularly important in a common-law relationship, as these rights are not automatic outside of a legal marriage)
  • The plan for dealing with a shared business, if applicable

Certain items cannot be set out in advance through the terms of a cohabitation agreement. These include:

  • Parenting rights with respect to existing or future children of the relationship. Since a cohabitation agreement is created at the start of, or during, a relationship, the law does not allow a couple to predetermine how they will manage parenting rights or child support. Circumstances can change after the agreement is created and so this issue must be managed at the time of separation. All terms and obligations can instead be set out in a separation agreement at that time.
  • Mandating a specific dispute resolution process. Some couples may be tempted to opt for an alternative form of dispute resolution, such as mediation or negotiation, in the event of a breakdown of the relationship. However, they cannot set these terms out in advance via their cohabitation agreement. Again, this is something that should be determined at the time of separation, based on the factors applicable at that point in time.

The Importance of Independent Legal Advice for Cohabitation Agreements

After all the work that goes into negotiating and drafting the terms of a cohabitation agreement, it’s important to ensure the agreement will be considered legally valid should enforcement become an issue. One of the key factors to ensure a cohabitation agreement will withstand legal scrutiny is for each party to seek independent legal advice prior to signing the agreement. This is to ensure each party is fully aware of how they will be impacted by each of the terms in the agreement.

If you have had an agreement drafted elsewhere, we will review the contents in detail with you and ensure you have a full appreciation of your rights and responsibilities. If we have concerns with any aspect of the agreement, we will raise these issues with you and negotiate the terms on your behalf if necessary.

Contact the Family Lawyers at Shariff & Associates for Cohabitation Agreement Drafting & Review 

The experienced lawyers at Shariff & Associates frequently help common-law clients design comprehensive and customized cohabitation agreements that reflect their circumstances. No matter how complex your financial and business dealings may be, we have the resources to ensure your rights will be fully secured. When circumstances dictate, we will bring our entire team to the table to ensure we have considered every possibility and provide clients with an agreement that works for them. To review your matter with a member of our team, please reach out to us online, or call us at 905-591-4545.

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