Cohabitation Agreements and Marriage Agreements

Beginning a new relationship or getting married is very exciting on one hand, but on the other hand is also the beginning of a broad spectrum of legal and financial implications along with rights and responsibilities. The question is, in the event of a breakdown of the relationship, how to protect your assets and save yourself from liabilities which get attached with the commencement of the relationship.

Cohabitation Agreements between unmarried couples and Marriage Agreements between married couples are very useful when one or both parties have significant assets or liabilities brought into the relationship or expecting to acquire during the relationship. Cohabitation Agreements may be converted to Marriage Agreements, or may be cancelled, if the parties intend to marry after some time.

The Family Law Act SBC 2011 c.25 defines a spouse as a person who is either married to another person, or in the case of unmarried spouse, either has lived with another person in a marriage like relationship and has done so for a continuous period of at least 2 years, or has a child together but has lived in a marriage like relationship for a shorter period of time. The unmarried spouses who have lived together for at least 2 years may be entitled to property and pension division, debt division, spousal support, and parenting arrangements if they have a child together. The unmarried spouses who have not lived together for at least 2 years but have a child together may be entitled for spousal support and parenting arrangements.

If the parties have entered into a Cohabitation Agreement in case they are living in a common law relationship, or the parties have entered into a Marriage Agreement if they have married, the Agreement itself can describe the division of assets and liabilities of the parties after they separate. It can also describe the complex issue of entitlement or waiver of spousal support by the parties. Apart from this, the Agreements also have provisions for issues dealing with child support of the eligible children of the parties from former relationships. These Agreements can consist of the parties’ arrangements of living and their rights and responsibilities during their relationship. From daily issues like who will spend money on groceries, and who will pay the rent and the rest of the bills etc. to parties’ obligations towards any properties purchased separate or together, or any liabilities incurred separate or together can be described in the Agreements. The Agreements also provide how to deal with the parties separate bank accounts and joint bank accounts, and the arrangements for doing household chores and taking care of the children if the parties have any.

It is very important that these Agreements be drafted by the lawyers. Both parties should be seeking advice from their lawyers and obtain Independent Legal Advice certificates, so that none of them can later say that he/she was not aware of what they were signing. Complete financial disclosure of both parties is another important aspect of these agreements.

Spending money on getting these Agreements might seem like a waste of money in the beginning, but they are well worth spending money on them, as they will protect you from legal implications down the road, and probably save you thousands of dollars!