The Cohabitation Agreement – The ‘Prenup’ For Unmarried Couples


If you are in a common law relationship, or about to move in with a partner, you should seriously consider a cohabitation agreement. This is a great tool to protect your interests in the event of a relationship breakdown. Ideally, a cohabitation agreement should be signed before you start living together. However, you can enter into such an agreement at any point during the relationship.

It may be daunting to discuss the end of your relationship just as it’s taking flight, but life happens. It’s best to consider a cohabitation agreement as a preventative measure to reduce uncertainty.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a domestic contract that sets out the rights and responsibilities of the parties if they separate. Cohabitation Agreements are very similar to marriage contracts or prenuptial agreements for married couples.

The agreement can set out how partners will split their assets and debts. The agreement can also outline management of everyday finances while living together, such as how much each person contributes to rent/mortgage and property taxes, insurance, utilities and repairs.

If specified in the agreement, a cohabitation agreements turns into a marriage contract if the couple eventually marries and offers the same protection as a marriage contract.

Why you should get a Cohabitation Agreement

The main purpose of entering into a cohabitation agreement is to define the rights and obligations of the parties upon separation. In most cases parties will enter into such agreements to deal with issues relating to spousal support and property matters.

While there are no automatic property rights in a common law relationship, there are some limited circumstances which can give rise to property rights in a common law relationship.

Similar to married couples, common law spouses have spousal support obligations. However, common law spouses only have a spousal support obligation if they have lived together for at least 3 years or if they have a child together.

What Cannot be Included

Cohabitation agreements cannot deal with issues related to children such as custody, access, or child support. Issues related to children can only be dealt with post-separation.

Parties also cannot give up their rights to occupy the matrimonial home or limit the other spouse’s right to occupy the matrimonial home.

The Process

To get a cohabitation agreement, it is necessary for each partner to retain their own lawyers. Financial disclosure will need to be exchanged and the parties will need to obtain independent legal advice when signing the agreement. If either of these steps are missed, this will significantly increase the chances of the agreement being challenged or overturned by a judge in the future.

For more information about cohabitation agreements or about obtaining family legal services in Ontario, please contact our Toronto divorce lawyer here.

NOTICE AND DISCLAIMER: The material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please consult with a family lawyer

Other Articles to Read

Separation Agreements and Financial Disclosure

Marriage Contract and Cohabitation Agreement

Helpful Resources:

Divorce and Separation
Family Justice Services
Child Custody and Access
Spousal Support
Child Support
Division or Equalization of Family Property
Treatment of a Matrimonial Home
Enforcement of Support Payments
Child Protection
Child Adoption

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