Contact us now!

Why do I need a marriage contract or a cohabitation agreement?

By: Kate Saldanha

So you say: “why do I need a contract to move in with my girlfriend?”, or, “we are getting married and we will live happily ever after, so why do I need a contract?”

Well, the answer is simple. Each party should know what their respective rights and responsibilities are during the relationship. Whether it is the wife or boyfriend leaving, or a party dying, you need to set out the rules in advance of what your separation will look like in terms of property division.

Sounds like doom and gloom right? Not so. In fact, the doom and gloom can be avoided if the terms of the relationship are set out in a domestic contract.

Under the family law legislation in Ontario, individuals, same sex or opposite sex, who wish to marry, or live together are able to write out in advance, the terms of their relationship, and separation agreement. In order for the endeavor to be successful, it is vital that all parties sit down and discuss what would happen to assets in the event of a separation or death. Further, if the parties intend to marry, it is even more important to discuss how assets and debts are to be divided, because the current law in Ontario requires equal division of assets between married spouses. So, if one or both parties have assets that they wish to protect from a division with the other spouse, it should be clearly set out in the domestic contract.

This applies to common law spouses as well, even though there is no automatic division between these spouses as there is with married ones, it is still vital that the terms of property division be set out.

Additionally, many of these domestic contracts will set out who pays what bills, as well, how personal property is divided. There should really be no arguing over who get the Sony TV and the china cups. But if there is an argument, the terms of the division can be established through a domestic contract.

To ensure that the agreements are valid it is very important that the agreements not be entered into on the eve of the move in date, or the night before the wedding. Ideally, it should be done no less that 3 months before the move in date, or wedding date. The sooner the contract is negotiated, the better chance it stands to be found to be binding if challenged in the Court.

Please note that any knowledge gained from information here cannot be used as legal advice unless under legal retainer from PDC. See our Terms of Service for more information