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What is the purpose of cohabitation agreements?

Couples in Ontario who are planning to marry can sign prenuptial agreements that will allow them to predetermine the roles of each party in the marriage and how assets and debts will be divided in the event of a divorce. Because unmarried spouses are unprotected when it comes to property division, they may want to exercise their rights to sign cohabitation agreements. With such a contract in place at the beginning of a cohabitation relationship, a couple can focus on life and love rather than what would happen if they should split.

Under Ontario law, unmarried couples do not have the same rights to equal property division as married couples. With a cohabitation agreement, an unmarried couple can make sure they have the same property rights as those who are married. However, to ensure that such an agreement is legally binding and will hold up in court, both spouses must sign it in the presence of two witnesses.

Cohabitation agreements can contain almost anything that a couple might want to include. However, child support and child custody issues may not form part of a contract between the parents. Those matters are to be decided by a judge who will ensure the best interests of a child are protected. Parents may establish a parenting agreement to present to the court for approval.

Although couples in Ontario may draft their own cohabitation agreements, many choose to seek the support and guidance of their respective family law lawyers. Before signing the agreement, each party's legal representative can review the contract to ensure his or her client's rights are not violated. The lawyer can then file the agreement with the court to allow enforcement if one party should violate the terms.

Source: nawl.ca, "Talk to your partner and make your own agreement", Accessed on Feb. 9, 2018

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