Cohabitation, or common law marriages, is the norm among young adults in Canada. About 80% of couples between the ages of 20 and 24 choose to live together without marrying in 2021. Among older couples, the rate is much lower but growing. Overall, cohabitation rates have increased by more than 400% from 1981 to 2021.
Although not necessary, cohabitation agreements are becoming increasingly popular in Ontario. They offer couples protection and clarity in case of a relationship breakdown. These agreements can be crucial for couples who own property together or have children.
The Importance of Cohabitation Agreements in Ontario
Section 53(1) of Ontario’s Family Law Act outlines each partner’s legal rights and responsibilities in a cohabiting relationship.
A cohabitation agreement is a domestic contract. It’s a written agreement between two people living together or planning to live together. The agreement covers many issues that may have significance if the couple separates. It addresses issues like property division, spousal support, and the education and upbringing of children.
An essential aspect of a cohabitation agreement is the protection of property rights. In Ontario, common-law couples have different rights from married couples when it comes to property division.
Unlike married couples, the law does not require common-law partners to split property. Generally, the property belongs to the one whose name is in the title. Suppose you contributed significantly to the purchase of the property, but your partner refuses to reimburse you. In that case, you can take your case to court.
A cohabitation agreement can help you avoid costly litigation by overriding this default rule. You can specify how to divide property in the event of a separation. This provision is especially important for couples who have jointly invested significant amounts of money into property.
Similarly, cohabitation agreements can also address issues regarding children and financial support.
Essential Aspects of Cohabitation Agreements
You can enter a cohabitation agreement anytime during the relationship. However, most couples create one when purchasing property together, typically through a cohabitation agreement law firm.
It’s crucial that all parties fully understand the agreement terms and that they seek legal advice before signing. Each party should have independent legal representation to protect their rights and interests.
When creating a cohabitation agreement, it’s vital to be thorough and specific. The contract should clearly outline each partner’s assets and debts and detail the manner of division in case of a relationship breakdown. The agreement should also address future changes to the relationship, such as the birth of a child.
Another critical issue that should be in a cohabitation agreement is spousal support. It is the financial provision of one partner to the other after a relationship ends, which is not automatic in Ontario. However, a cohabitation agreement can specify these provisions, including the amount and duration of support.
Couples can also use cohabitation agreements to establish parenting arrangements. It should include custody, access, and decision-making authority details for critical issues such as education and healthcare.
Cohabitation agreements can provide necessary protection and clarity for common-law couples in Toronto. They can address various legal issues, including property division, spousal support, child custody, and access.
However, these agreements must comply with Ontario law. Therefore, you should have a family law lawyer create one and negotiate terms for you. Consulting a legal professional ensures the agreement is fair, enforceable, thorough, and specific, protecting each partner’s rights and interests.