Marriage Contract and Prenuptial Agreements
Prenup marriage contracts keep the commitment in marriage and relationships. Before you, your spouse or partners move in together or get married, decide what you would do if it didn't work out. Axess Law family lawyers help you figure out in advance how to divide shared assets after separation, divorce or death.
Marriage contracts and prenuptial agreements let you set your own terms for what you expect during or after a relationship. You can divide property any way you want, without having to equalize it 50/50 if you divorce. You can even waive equalization or property division if you like, as long as you make an enforceable prenuptial agreement or marriage contract.
Legally married couples in Ontario are considered to be equal partners. Without a contract you made before cohabitating or marrying, shared property and any increase in assets you brought into a marriage are divided equally upon divorce. You can change that, and agree on spousal support beforehand, by making a pre or post nuptial agreement.
Making Marriage or Prenuptial Agreements
Pre and post nuptial agreements are written, dated contracts signed by both partners and witnessed by at least one person. They allow you to make financial arrangements if you want to protect assets in case your relationship breaks down, set out spousal or child support expectations or divide property or business interests on your own terms. You can include decisions about sharing investments, real estate, personal property, vehicles or make lifestyle choices that are legal and fair.
Axess Law Ontario ensures your contract is valid and will hold up in family court if your partner disputes it when your relationship ends. We witness signatures and notarize domestic agreements.
What You Can't Include
The only decisions you can't include, other than illegal or unfair terms, are parenting time and decision-making responsibility for children and stepchildren (formerly called child access and child custody) or who lives in the matrimonial home.
You probably can't anticipate before you have children or marry what your their best interests and needs might be. That's why Ontario family law doesn't allow you to include access and custody issues in prenup marriage contracts or cohabitation agreements. The court can disregard any plans you make other than for your children's moral, religious or educational upbringing.
Say, for example, your husband is Jewish and you aren't. You can agree in a marriage contract that your children will attend Jewish day school or study Hebrew. You can't decide who your child will live with if you separate or divorce.
Making Cohabitation Agreements
Same-sex or common law couples and Ontario residents in any kind of relationship, including polyamory, can make the legal equivalent, a cohabitation agreement. You have a right to property you brought into the relationship and part of assets you acquired together. Your agreement can include all the same decisions as pre and post nuptial agreements, except that equalization laws don't apply. If you decide to marry, the agreement becomes your marriage contract.
Are Marriage Contracts Enforceable?
Valid marriage contracts in Ontario and prenuptial agreements are enforceable and legally binding unless:
- a contract is unfair or unconscionable
- assets, debts or liabilities were withheld during financial disclosure
- you were defrauded
- you were coerced or unduly influenced to sign
- you or your partners didn't understand the contract or its consequences
- or any other reason under Ontario contract law.
Family court judges look at your contract at the time you signed it and resolve any issues you can't agree on if you separate or divorce. Our Greater Toronto Area family lawyers can advise you on asking Ontario family court to set aside all or part of a domestic contract you think is unfair. We tell you your options if your partner faked your consent or changed an agreement without your permission. Our lawyers video conference online or can meet you in person at any of our law offices, 7 days a week, at your convenience.
Why You Need a Lawyer
Axess Law family lawyers advise you on:
- rules for prenuptial agreements
- marital rights and responsibilities
- different types of marriage contracts, such as mahrs
- property division after separation or divorce
- protecting the best interests of the child in family law agreements.
You could draft your own prenuptial agreement or marriage contract. But without a lawyer's advice, can you be sure your contract will stand up in court? Marital contract legal opinions by Axess Law's Ontario virtual family lawyers cost just $349.99. Our flat fee rates are well worth it when you consider legal contracts are binding under Ontario's Family Law Act.
We draft pre and post nuptial agreements and can give legal opinions on marital contracts your partner or lawyer prepares.
Getting Independent Legal Advice on Family Agreements
Axess Law Ontario family lawyers recommend independent legal advice for married, common law or cohabitating partners. Before you give up important parenting, spousal support or property division rights, ask for a legal opinion. We review your family law agreement for fairness and explain the law to you. You pay just $349.99 for an independent legal advice certificate (ILA certificate) to show Ontario family court.
Going to the same lawyer is not the same as getting an ILA certificate from a lawyer who represents your interests alone. When you have one lawyer represent you and your partners, you accept your lawyer has a conflict of interest. A family court judge may wonder if you truly understood the agreement you were signing without having it reviewed by your own objective, unbiased legal representative. While you could save money by hiring a single lawyer, it may not be to your advantage if your relationship ends and the contract is one-sided or unfair.
ILA certificates prove to a court all partners understand terms and consequences of draft family law agreements. Family judges are less likely to overturn prenuptial agreements or marriage contracts when you can prove you got independent legal advice.
Changing or Canceling Marriage Contracts
Since things change, reviewing your agreement periodically is a good idea. Contracts can be changed or cancelled at any time, as long as all parties agree. For example, if you have children, your income goes down, your partner is ill and can't work or you inherit money you want to keep separate from shared resources. Your contract is enforceable by your estate trustee when you die and may be able to be revised if you divorce and later become incapacitated or your spousal support needs change. Amended or rescinded agreements must be written, dated, signed and witnessed, just like any domestic contract.
Free Quotes for Family Law Agreements
Call us for a quote on drafting a prenuptial agreement or marriage contract. Our Greater Toronto Area lawyers meet with you anywhere in Ontario by remote video call or in person at family law offices near you. Call us for a free quote.