Live common law in Ontario and worried about what happens if you separate? A cohabitation agreement protects your financial and legal interests. It's like a prenuptial agreement or marriage contract, only for common law spouses or unmarried couples who plan to live together.
Common law spouses' legal rights differ from legally married couples. The home or assets you share may not be yours if you split. For your own peace of mind, it's important to know your common law rights and obligations.
Ontario's Family Law Act considers you common law spouses if you:
- live together three or more years or a year if you have biological or adopted children
- share a shelter
- get financial support from your partner
- have an emotional and sexual relationship
- share social activities
- and are seen by yourselves and others as a couple.
A cohabitation agreement contract protects you while you live together or in case your relationship ends.
Why You Need a Cohabitation Agreement
Written cohabitation agreements in Ontario give you property rights if you separate. Without one, you are limited to making legal claims for financial support. Going to family court is time consuming and expensive. Plan ahead instead by drafting a domestic partnership agreement. You can discuss your expectations for your relationship. And you can decide if you will financially support your spouse if they leave, or divide property that you own with them.
Bringing substantial assets into a new relationship or a business or vacation property you want to keep if you separate are all reasons to make a domestic contract. Your commitment to children from previous marriages or relationships can also make cohabitation agreements necessary. Dying intestate without a will and cohabitation agreement can leave your spouse and children financially vulnerable after you are gone.
Think of all you are giving up by making a long-term commitment to a life partner -- your independence and sometimes earning power. Putting your career on hold to care for children can cause you to lose precious income you could have used to make a comfortable life for yourself. A cohabitation agreement gives you credit for financial contributions and domestic arrangements that can affect your future if you leave the relationship or your common law spouse dies.
What to Include in Cohabitation Agreements
Axess Law's Ontario family lawyers draft domestic agreements to suit any family or financial circumstances. Our licensed family lawyers in Greater Toronto Area meet with you in person or arrange online video conferences to discuss financial investments and real property assets. We give you virtual legal advice at reasonable rates you can afford.
Your cohabitation agreement can include:
- adding joint tenancy to your property title
- who lives in the family home with children
- who gets the family business
- dividing real property like vacation cottages
- dividing joint bank accounts and investments
- paying bills and debts
- spousal support after separation
- dividing personal possessions
- directing children's education and moral training
- and anything else you share as a couple.
Parenting time and decision-making responsibility for children (formerly called child access and child custody) are excluded. Only a family court judge can decide what the best interests of the child.
Axess Law Ontario cohabitation agreements respect domestic agreements contract law. Your agreement is legally binding and can be filed in any Ontario family court. If you're worrying about can a cohabitation agreement be overturned, hiring an Axess Law lawyer is the best reassurance you can buy.
How to Make Cohabitation Agreements (Ontario)
Being open and honest about your finances is essential to making legally valid cohabitation agreements. If you marry later, your domestic agreement will become a marriage contract, with enduring legal consequences. Hiring an Ontario lawyer for domestic contracts ensures your agreement is legally binding on your spouse and properly signed by you and witnesses. While you can write your own, licensed lawyers understand contract law rules for drafting agreements that can better withstand court challenges.
Dividing Property When You Separate
Deciding on who keeps the family home and dividing financial investments or shared bank accounts can cause emotional distress. Axess Law writes cohabitation agreements that are fair and reasonable for both spouses. Joint bank accounts or investments you purchased as a couple can be divided evenly or shared based on each spouse's contribution.
If you need to change domestic agreements, we do that for you and ensure amendments are signed and witnessed. Our family law offices offer legal opinions on requesting financial support if cohabitation agreements are very unfair or outdated when a spouse passes away. Your partner's income may go up substantially after you leave. Your own needs may also change if you become ill after you separate or unable to find work because you have been a stay-at-home parent. We make amending agreements or rescind marriage contracts if income changes, you receive inheritances or marry or have children.
Dealing with Dishonest Spouses
Dealing with a common law spouse who is dishonest or hides assets can be emotionally exhausting. Axess Law helps you figure out if your spouse is withholding financial disclosure to prevent sharing income after separation. We can recommend private investigators or advise on getting court judgments against spouses. Axess Law will look at your unique family situation and inform you if you can enforce cohabitation agreements in court.
Children's Rights in Common Law Relationships
Who will care for biological or adopted children and grandchildren if you separate or your partner dies are a huge concern for common law couples. While your cohabitation agreement can't include child access or child custody decisions, you can make informal parenting plans for Ontario family court. We have virtual family lawyers anywhere in Ontario or at law offices near you to advise you on parenting obligations and decision-making responsibility for minor children or adult dependants who need financial support and guidance.
Getting ILA Certificates - Independent Legal Advice
Get independent legal advice before signing any legal contracts in Ontario. Axess Law lawyers advise you separately from your spouse to protect you from being coerced or unduly influenced while signing domestic contracts. We provide an ILA certificate to show family court you understand the nature and consequences of the contract. Domestic agreements are less likely to be overturned in court when you have independent legal advice because it demonstrates you took time and effort to get an opinion from a lawyer on your own.
Flat Rate Fees for Domestic Contracts
Axess Law has some of the most affordable legal fees in Greater Toronto Area. Our fees for cohabitation agreements vary depending on how complex your legal and financial arrangements are. You can't afford not to protect your financial interests, so call ahead for a quote from our experienced family lawyers near you. We have law offices in Greater Toronto Area and offer remote video calls anywhere in Ontario.