A cohabitation agreement is one of several agreements that can exist at different stages of a relationship. While this type of agreement is typically designed for non-married couples before or during a cohabitating living arrangement, it’s important to remember that the law treats common-law relationships the same as marriages after a certain period of time (usually 1-2 years). With this in mind, a cohabitation agreement and a marriage agreement are often considered one and the same.
Essentially, these agreements act as a legal contract which outlines the rights and responsibilities of a common-law or married couple and what happens should the relationship come to an end.
What kind of terms are in a cohabitation agreement?
These agreements usually outline terms related to assets, debts, and things like spousal support. Unlike a separation agreement, for instance, a cohabitation or marriage agreement cannot include things such as child custody or child support.
Items that can usually be included in a cohabitation agreement:
- The division of family property, real estate, and family heirlooms
- Assets such as valuable possessions and pensions
- The division of debts and other liabilities
- Whether one partner is entitled to spousal support
Items that usually can’t be included in a cohabitation agreement:
- Parenting time
- Parenting responsibilities
- Child support
- Child custody
Do you need a cohabitation agreement?
A cohabitation or marriage agreement generally isn’t a one-size-fits-all contract. They are typically best suited for those who are bringing a significant amount of assets or debt into the relationship. If there isn’t much at stake, a cohabitation agreement may not be necessary.
Cohabitation agreements are generally best when:
- The relationship is expected to last for the long term
- One party has significant assets going into the relationship
- One party has significant debts going into the relationship
- One or both parties are bringing a child into the relationship
- One or both parties are expected in acquire or inherit property or other significant assets during the course of the relationship
Cohabitation agreements are generally not ideal for:
- Young couples
- Instances where both parties have no significant assets
- Instances where both parties have no significant debts
- Instances where neither party is bringing a child into the relationship
How do you create a cohabitation agreement?
The best place to start in creating a cohabitation agreement is to work with your common-law partner to identify all of your assets (property, savings accounts, etc.) and debts (credit cards, mortgages, etc.). The objective is to identify and record all of the assets and debts you have independent of your common-law partner and also the ones which you share. Both of these will need to be discussed in the agreement.
While you can write your own agreement, it must be signed by both parties and at least one other person must witness you sign it.
This is just one example of many technical legal considerations that go into these often highly complex agreements. It is usually recommended to seek out those practicing family law when considering a cohabitation agreement, as these legal professionals have the most specialized knowledge and experience to navigate the many nuances of cohabitation agreements, compared with other practices.
If you’re looking for sound peace of mind knowing that you have a cohabitation agreement that aligns with your best interests and also covers all available considerations, reach out to our team of family law specialists who can provide you with expert advice and direction.