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What should a cohabitation agreement include?

Until recently, many people only considered marriage and cohabitation agreements as something needed by the wealthy. The truth is that no matter how few assets or debts you may have, a marriage or cohabitation agreement is a good legal step.

You likely don't want to think that your relationship will end or that there could be a lot of animosity. However, it's important to know your rights, plan ahead and know what assets are yours if the relationship turns sour.

Cohabitation agreements are used by unmarried couples to detail legal decisions about your assets, debts and other property division. It can also be used to set spousal support. There is no law in Ontario that automatically divides property for people who are not married. A cohabitation agreement, though, can be written so you have the same property division rights as a married couple would have.

In order for a cohabitation to be considered legal, it has to be in writing. Both parties must sign it as well as two adult witnesses. A cohabitation agreement can be filed with the court, which means that a judge can enforce it if the terms of it are violated.

Each party should have his or her lawyer review a cohabitation agreement before signing it. Not only will a lawyer explain what rights the law entitles you to, he or she can also ensure that the document meets the requirements set forth by law.

There are specific things that cannot be included in your cohabitation agreement, such as child support or child access. Because the two of you are not married, though, you can create a parenting agreement in which those topics can be addressed.

Source: National Association of Women and the Law, "Talk to your partner and make your own agreement," accessed Feb. 02, 2016

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