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Couples may consider cohabitation agreements for legal protection

Statistics in Canada indicate that more than ever, couples are opting to live together without getting married for longer periods of time. Some couples even choose to forgo marriage altogether. However, people who decide to commit to a long-term relationship may want to think about devising cohabitation agreements to protect their individual rights in the event of a separation.

Because marriage is a legally binding institution, married men and women are guaranteed certain rights should the marriage end. Perhaps most importantly, in Ontario these rights include receiving half the marital assets, and half the value of assets brought into the marriage. Couples who choose to live together without getting married do not enjoy these same rights.

Cohabitation agreements are legal documents signed by both parties in a relationship and are legally binding. They can afford financial protection to a partner who comes into the relationship with fewer assets than the other. Couples can specify who gets what in the event of a separation, and what amount of support will be paid, if desired. It also can be used to preempt any possible debate over who has to move out of the home should the relationship dissolve. 

Properly written, cohabitation agreements can offer a lot of peace of mind to people living together in a long-term relationship in Ontario. Should the relationship come to an end, a lot of anguish and arguing may be avoided by having an agreement already in place. They are also flexible documents; amendments can be made as situations change, and it becomes a marriage contract should the couple choose to wed. Any interested men and women can contact a family law office for information and assistance in drafting their own agreements.

Source: Ministry of the Attorney General, "What You Should Know About Family Law in Ontario", Accessed on Dec. 31, 2016

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