cohabitation agreements/marriage contracts

Planning on moving in with someone or getting married is a big step.  Many couples, even younger couples with minimal assets, are looking to have agreements made before moving in with each other and/or getting married.  They want an agreement in place that sets out what will happen with their assets after they intertwine their lives.

We draft these types of domestic contracts for our clients, or provide independent legal advice on agreements drafted by other lawyers.  

what is a cohabitation agreement or marriage contract?

A Cohabitation Agreement is a contract between two people in a relationship who are planning to live together.  The agreement specifies how they are going to manage their personal property and assets.  If you prepare a cohabitation agreement and later marry, the cohabitation agreement is treated as a marriage contract. 

A marriage contract is the same type of agreement, but it is done specifically in contemplation of marriage, or even after a marriage has taken place.  You can prepare these documents any time in the relationship.  

 Agreements are also to be treated as separation agreements in the event of a relationship breakdown.  The Family Law Act, RSO 1990 permits these types domestic contracts (see Part IV, sections 51 - 54).   

what do these types of contracts do?

Cohabitation Agreements and Marriage Contracts offer guidance to parties in how they will operate their financial relationship going forward and in the event of a breakdown.  There are many helpful aspects to these types of contracts including:

  • capturing the value of net worth (total assets and debts) of each party at the start of the relationship;
  • setting out financial expectations of each party during the relationship;
  • setting out how assets and debts will be treated going forward (i.e. shared, kept separate, go with title, a mix depending on title and the asset);
  • protecting family businesses and real property from being shared in the event of a breakdown in a relationship;
  • outlining spousal support obligations or waiving those obligations.

can we both have the same lawyer?

We can only represent one party to the agreement.  Sometimes couples come in together for the initial appointment to discuss the options, and then one person become the client.  The other party then gets independent legal advice or waives independent legal advice.  We do not recommend either party waive ILA.  Where both parties have had advice from lawyers prior to signing the agreement, both parties are better protected as the agreement is more likely to be upheld by a court if challenged later.  

what is the cost of this agreement?

The cost will vary from case to case, but the majority of agreements which have full financial disclosure prepared by parties involved and the main issues are agreed upon are prepared for under $2,000.00.  A specific fee estimate can be provided at the initial consultation appointment.