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Cohabitation agreements are essential to protect assets

Common-law relationships are governed by provincial laws that differ from province to province. However, Ontario couples in such relationships may not realize that without legal documents to prove a marriage and an actual ceremony, each party in the relationship has almost no rights in the event of a breakup. The only way they have to protect their interests is by signing cohabitation agreements.

Misconceptions that exist include the idea that all provinces view common-law relationships in the same way. In Ontario, couples who cohabitate in a relationship similar to marriage will be regarded as common-law spouses after three years. However, if they have a child together, they will reach cohabitation status after one year. Even so, the two parties will not have any right to each other's property.

In the event of an end to the relationship, each party will have the right to claim any property to which he or she contributed, but they will not be entitled to any assets. Unless a couple in Ontario were married, neither spouse would be legally entitled to spousal support. They do have the right to reach an agreement if one spouse will suffer financially after a break-up or if one party gave up a career to care for the household and the children.

Ontario individuals who choose to cohabitate rather than having a formal marriage and the associated legal documents may want to protect their own interests. By utilizing the skills of an experienced domestic relations lawyer, cohabitation agreements can be drafted. With such an agreement, a person can ensure that assets or property brought into the relationship remain separate. Furthermore, the manner in which assets acquired during the relationship will be divided in the event of a breakup can be specified, along with a clause to address spousal and child support.

Source: CBC News Canada -, "4 myths about common-law relationships", Alexandra Kazia, Accessed on Jan. 5, 2018

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