Cohabitation Agreement Lawyers in Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Oshawa

Moving in with your “significant other” is an exciting time! It is a time filled with hope, anticipation, and enthusiasm for the future. Why would you ever think of consulting a Whitby family law lawyer about an Ontario Cohabitation Agreement? Because life frequently does not go according to plan. Sometimes, it seems that the wheels fell off the bus. At M. G. Michaels & Associates, our Whitby cohabitation lawyers can help protect your interests with an Ontario Cohabitation Agreement in Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Oshawa and across Durham Region.

Life altering decisions, like choosing to live with someone, come with some apprehension or uncertainty of the unknown. Or, even if you have no anxieties whatsoever about your decision to move in with your significant other, the pragmatic part of your brain may nudge you to want to prepare for the “what if” that can happen – namely, what if the relationship ends in some unexpected way such as a break-up or death? How will your property and income be dealt with if this happens?

Our Whitby cohabitation lawyers at M. G. Michaels & Associates explain Ontario Cohabitation Agreements below. Our pragmatic approach to Ontario Cohabitation Agreements is simple: hope for the best and prepare for the worst. This way, you are protected from a family law perspective, and can enjoy this big step in your life with the peace of mind of knowing that you and your partner are on the same page. You are both protected in the event of a breakdown of the relationship, and can sleep soundly with that knowledge. Ontario Cohabitation Agreements are legal contracts, and as such, are legally enforceable.

An Ontario Cohabitation Agreement is a contract two people enter into who either already do or intend to reside together in a relationship of some permanence as common law spouses.

An Ontario Cohabitation Agreement sets out a couple’s intentions with respect to property division, income sharing by way of spousal support, and other rights and legal issues in the event the couple’s relationship ends. An Ontario Cohabitation Agreement may also address each party’s responsibilities owed to their partner’s children, if their spouse has children from another relationship.

Typically, the best time to get an Ontario Cohabitation Agreement is early on in the relationship. This way, there are no misunderstandings about each spouse’s responsibilities owed to the other in the event of a separation, before the relationship and living circumstances advance too far.

It is natural to want to avoid these difficult conversations with your partner, but the sharing of clear expectations early on can go a long way toward avoiding potential conflict in the future. It can provide you both with peace of mind knowing that your rights, responsibilities and expectations for one another are known to both of you. It demonstrates that you are committed to one another and are on the same page about what your future together will look like. Discussing your expectations for the relationship can actually help bring you closer together and make sure that your goals for the future are in line with one another.

While everyone should consider entering into a Cohabitation Agreement when they decide to move in with one another, in Ontario, under the Family Law Act, only spouses can make a claim for property division or spousal support upon a separation.

So, what is the definition of a spouse in Ontario and does this differ for married and unmarried couples? Does a common law partner count as a spouse? If so, when?

Under section 1 of the Family Law Act, you are only considered a spouse if you are married. This is important because sections 4-28 of the Act deal with property division, and the law is clear that if you are just living common law, and not married, you have no automatic right to divide property if the relationship ends.

On the other hand, under section 29 of the Act the definition of spouse is expanded as follows:

  • You are legally married;
  • You lived together in a marriage-like relationship (often referred to as a ‘relationship of some permanence’) for at least three years; or
  • You lived together in a marriage-like relationship for less than three years but have a child together.
  • If you meet the definition of spouse, then may make a claim for spousal support against your spouse if you separate (or the estate if your spouse died); but,
  • Even if you meet the definition of spouse, you have no right to receive a division of property (real estate, bank accounts, RRSPs, cars, et cetera) or employment pension benefits because the Family Law Act. It does not, however, mean that you cannot claim or receive any division of property, depending on the circumstances of your relationship.

There are many benefits associated with entering into a well-drafted, comprehensive, and personalized Ontario Cohabitation Agreement. In the event a spousal relationship ends, some benefits of an Ontario Cohabitation Agreement include:

  • Clearly outlines expectations and responsibilities of each spouse early in the relationship so that proper financial planning and steps can be taken by each spouse during the relationship in the event the relationship ends in the future;
  • Reduces the risk of potential high conflict after separation;
  • Supports your wishes in the event you die while in a spousal relationship;
  • Saves money and expense in potential litigation fighting over property division and spousal support after separation; and,
  • Allows the ability to decide how your property will be shared, if at all, after separation, as well as the ability to ignore limitation periods in the future.

This question is commonly asked of family lawyers all across Ontario. Notwithstanding the above-mentioned benefits of an Ontario Cohabitation Agreement, not everyone needs a Cohabitation Agreement. Further, in some circumstances an Ontario Cohabitation Agreement may be inappropriate or even detrimental.

Before committing to any Cohabitation Agreement, it is important that you speak to a family lawyer to discuss how an Ontario Cohabitation Agreement can serve and impact you. Do you have a net worth today while your soon-to-be common law spouse has debt? Is your soon-to-be common law spouse older, retired and financially comfortable and hoping you will leave work at a younger age so that you can both travel together? These are two factors that would make having an Ontario Cohabitation Agreement very important to both of you.

Call or email the Whitby family lawyers at M. G. Michaels & Associates now to find out more about Ontario Cohabitation Agreements.