When a common-law relationship ends, disagreements about property, debt and spousal support often arise. If you are not married and live with your partner, a cohabitation agreement can help you avoid disagreements should your relationship dissolve in the future.
What Is a Cohabitation Agreement?
A Cohabitation Agreement is a written contract entered into by unmarried partners who are planning to live together. The agreement may set out how finances and debt obligations will be allocated during the relationship and if the relationship ends. The agreement may also set out how assets and debts will be purchased and maintained while the relationship is ongoing and after it terminates. Assets can include real estate, savings, vehicles, registered retirement savings plans, investments, and pensions. The agreement can be structured to permit each partner to retain their own assets and any increase in the value of the asset. A Cohabitation Agreement can also address whether partners will have post-separation spousal support obligations or entitlements.
What Else Can a Cohabitation Agreement Deal With?
Cohabitation Agreements can be customized to your own individual situation and can offer advantages to anyone who owns the property, has children from a previous marriage or is concerned about protecting business interests and expected inheritances. A Cohabitation Agreement can also detail what should happen if one of the partners dies during the relationship. An example of this could be how long one partner may occupy a residence after the death of their partner who may have sole ownership of the residence.
Is It Too Late for a Cohabitation Agreement If We Already Live Together?
No. Cohabitation Agreements are usually made prior to moving in together but they can also be done if you are already cohabiting with one another. You can also make an agreement before or during your marriage if you later decide to legally marry; these contracts are called prenuptial agreements or marriage agreements.
What Do I Need to Know Before I Negotiate a Cohabitation Agreement?
Full disclosure of both partner’s financial situation is essential. To make an agreement about how things will be dealt with if you break up, you need to be informed about what each partner is bringing into the relationship. The starting point is for both partners to make a list of everything they own (real estate, investments, pensions, RRSPs, savings accounts, vehicles, business interests, etc.) and everything they owe (lines of credit, mortgages, credit card debt, vehicle loans, etc.).
How Do I Make a Legal Cohabitation Agreement?
Once you and your partner have negotiated an agreement, it should be put in writing, signed, witnessed and dated. If your Cohabitation Agreement deals with property or spousal support, at least one other adult person must witness when you sign. Ideally, each partner will have had the benefit of independent legal advice before signing the Cohabitation Agreement.
Why Should We Have Independent Legal Advice?
After at least two years of living together in a marriage-like relationship, partners will qualify as “common-law spouses” for the purposes of dividing property or debt. BC family law rules for dividing property and debt apply by default when common-law partners separate unless the partners have agreed otherwise. It is important to know how BC family law would apply if you did not have a Cohabitation Agreement in place so that you understand how your agreement changes or adds to those rights and obligations. An experienced family lawyer can advise you on the fairness of the agreement and ensure that you are fully protected by the specific terms of your Cohabitation Agreement.
What If We Are at the End of Our Relationship or We Have Already Split Up?
If your relationship has broken down and you do not have a Cohabitation Agreement in place, you and your partner can still come to an agreement on various issues related to your separation, including living arrangements, division of property and debt, spousal support, child support and parenting arrangements. This type of agreement is called a Separation Agreement. If you and your former partner are not able to resolve your issues outside of court in a Separation Agreement, you will need to have your family lawyer start a case in court and ask a judge to resolve the contested issues.
Contact Us for Guidance from an Experienced Bc Family Lawyer
No matter what family law questions or issues you might be dealing with, you will receive attentive care and understanding at the office of Valerie M. Little Law Corporation. Valerie M. Little is a family lawyer who has been practicing family law for over 30 years. For couples that are thinking about moving in together or marrying, Ms. Little can assist with the preparation of a cohabitation agreement or a prenuptial agreement. Conversely, if you are at the end of your relationship or divorcing, Ms. Little can provide effective solutions and clear strategies, whether it be by way of a separation agreement or court proceedings to address issues such as parenting arrangements previously known as custody and access, child support, spousal support and division of property. Ms. Little's practice is exclusively devoted to issues of family law and she serves clients throughout the Lower Mainland, including Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Squamish, Pemberton, Whistler, Burnaby, Coquitlam, New Westminster, Maple Ridge and Langley. To schedule a consultation with our experienced family lawyer, contact Valerie M. Little Law Corporation today by phone at 604-526-3333, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by completing the form on the Contact Us page.