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Cohabitation agreements are building blocks for Ontario couples

Canada is a vast country which extends "from coast to coast to coast." Provincial laws, as a result, can vary widely from province to province, and from territory to province. This includes how each part of the federation views unmarried couples and their rights and obligations toward each other when they decide to dissolve their living arrangements. In such cases, cohabitation agreements can provide a reassuring foundation for moving forward in an amicable and cooperative spirit.

When couples fall in love and decide that marriage can wait, or is a future option, or is not a path one or both find comfortable, they often take for granted that conjugal life is, by definition, equivalent to formal marital status under Ontario law. They may believe that a shared lifestyle, including movable assets, property and monies acquired together or brought into the relationship, are governed by the same entitlements the law accords to married couples. Such blithely held assumptions could not be further from reality.

Without cohabitation agreements in place as well as the counsel of an experienced Ontario family law practitioner, disappointment and dismay may follow. Indeed, even the length of time that Ontario statutes consider a live-in partnership to be a valid conjugal relationship may prove to be a troubling revelation to a couple seeking a mutually affirming closure. In Nova Scotia, for example, living together for two years is considered the minimum under the law.

The variance in provincial laws can extend as far as whether spousal support or property division is even available through legal adjudication. Where children are involved, custody issues in common-law relationships can also differ from one end of the country to the other. The value of cohabitation agreements is that they can reduce the complexities entailed by living together outside of legal marriage. Securing a family law attorney to assist in producing such a worthwhile document may significantly forestall unforeseen road blocks later on.

Source: montrealgazette.com, "'When fairy tale falls apart:' Couples' status varies by relationship, region", Melanie Patten, Accessed on Aug. 6, 2017

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