Cohabitation Agreements in Ontario are often negotiated by a cohabitation agreement lawyer and put into place before cohabitation commences but can also be finalized after cohabitation has already taken place, although it is advisable to have a legally binding and enforceable cohabitation agreement in place within 36 months of the start of cohabitation or a common law relationship. This is relevant in relation to spousal support. If your circumstances change at any time during your relationship, it may be a good idea to review any existing cohabitation agreement to consider if more reasonable, up-dated terms are warranted. Further, cohabitation agreements can be converted into a marriage contract, if the parties decide at a future date that they wish to marry.
As with marriage contracts, the goal of cohabitation agreements for common-law spouses is to establish rights, responsibilities and obligations that the spouses will abide by upon a separation. The terms of the agreement can be tailored to address the specific needs of the client, and can include clauses in relation to spousal support, division of specific family property, household contents and personal assets, life interest in a family residence if the breakdown of the relationship is due to a death of a spouse, to ensure that each spouse’s expectations of the other are clearly delineated from the outset.
Why Have a Cohabitation Agreement?
Moreover, a well-crafted cohabitation agreement is more likely to be held up by an Ontario Court if challenged by a spouse. Separation is difficult enough, so setting up the process in advance to manage the financial aspects can significantly reduce stress during an already emotional time.
That’s why it is so important that cohabitation agreements be negotiated with the assistance of, drafted by and then carefully reviewed by a family law lawyer who has expertise in this area. The team at Holam Law PC has the necessary experience and knowledge to help you achieve your goals in this regard.
What Can Be Included in the Cohabitation Agreement?
Terms that can be included in a cohabitation agreement are as follows:
· Limitations on and/or waivers of spousal support
· Division and ownership of individual and family property and assets upon a breakdown of the relationship
· How finances will be managed during the period of cohabitation or after separation
· Life interest in real property in the event the breakdown of the relationship is due to death
· Any other matter which can otherwise be a point of contention at the time the relationship is dissolved
Limitations of a Cohabitation Agreement
It is important to note that while cohabitation agreements can be put in place to protect financial considerations, these agreements cannot include any terms in relation to the custody of and access to any child of the relationship or child support in the event of a separation. These issues are resolved only after a breakdown of the marriage has already taken place.
What Makes a Cohabitation Agreement Legally Binding?
Generally, when all the hallmarks of a binding and enforceable cohabitation agreement have been met, the Ontario courts have upheld marriage contracts. It is for these same reasons that a one-sided cohabitation agreement should be avoided. A one-sided cohabitation agreement will likely result in a spouse challenging in court the terms of the agreement following a breakdown of the relationship. Escalation of the dispute in costly litigation is something that many may otherwise want to avoid. Most importantly, cohabitation agreements lacking the hallmarks noted above are unlikely to be upheld in an Ontario court. If a cohabitation agreement or any part of it is set aside by the Court, the impugned provisions must be decided anew.
We Will Help with Your Cohabitation Agreements
Our family lawyers have extensive experience working with clients to negotiate and craft cohabitation agreements best suited to their needs. We customize these contracts based on our client’s wishes and requirements. At Holam Law PC, we provide a comprehensive service to our clients from the outset, by determining their needs, compiling their disclosure to conform with the legal requirements, negotiating the terms of the cohabitation agreement and then drafting the document once the terms are agreed upon. Knowing our clients well helps us ensure that their legal needs are met.
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