In much the same way that a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement could help settle the affairs of a legally married couple, a cohabitation agreement gives common-law spouses greater control over the division of property rights and financial support obligations after a separation. Without such an agreement, common-law spouses may find themselves unable to protect their own financial best interests when separating from their partner.
Understanding and abiding by the various rules and guidelines set by Ontario law for these agreements could be much easier with guidance from a marital contracts lawyer. Once retained, a dedicated Toronto cohabitation agreements lawyer could help ensure your rights and interests are protected during the drafting process and work towards a fair and beneficial outcome.
Many of the same provisions that apply to marital contracts also apply to cohabitation agreements. For such an agreement to be enforceable, it must be in writing, signed by both parties with at least one witness present, and drafted and signed without any pressure from either party or external forces. Additionally, both parties must disclose all financial interests, debts, and assets they have, and both should also retain legal counsel independently from each other to ensure the drafting process is fair.
If two common-law spouses with a valid cohabitation agreement decide to get legally married, their cohabitation agreement would become a legally enforceable marital contract without any additional steps or procedures required. However, if a court believes such a contract was drafted under duress or was based on fraud or a failure to disclose assets by one or both parties, it can set aside a problematic section of the agreement or even invalidate the agreement altogether.
When created fairly and in accordance with the law, cohabitation agreements can provide crucial rights and protections to common-law couples that are generally reserved for legally married couples. Perhaps most importantly, a cohabitation agreement can establish both parties’ ownership rights to certain shared properties or debts, which could make those assets eligible for equitable division in the event of a separation.
Additionally, cohabitation agreements can set spousal support obligations in advance that one party would owe the other after separation.
However, just like marital contracts, cohabitation agreements cannot include any terms on child custody or visitation rights following a separation, and a court would not enforce any section of such an agreement that attempts to address those kinds of issues. A lawyer in Toronto could explain in more detail during a private initial meeting what issues a particular cohabitation contract can resolve.
Even if you and your partner are not legally married, you can still draft a legally binding agreement that settles the same issues and potential future conflicts that a marital contract could. That being said, there are still numerous restrictions on how to draft a cohabitation agreement and what it can specifically address, and making sense of those rules can be challenging without professional legal guidance.
Working with a qualified Toronto cohabitation agreements lawyer could be key to effectively protecting your rights. Call any time for a consultation – Family Lawyer Paul Riley is available 24/7 for your convenience.
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