Cohabitation Agreements are legal documents which list the legal responsibilities and rights of unmarried couples living together. These agreements are also called “Living Together Agreements” or “Common-law Agreements” and tend to focus on the manner in which assets, property, and cash will be split in the event that the relationship comes to an end.
Cohabitation Agreements are required to be made in writing and it is necessary for both parties to sign the document in the presence of an independent witness.
The lawyers at Solimano Law can help you understand the legal consequences of a cohabitation agreement and ensure that the terms mentioned therein are fair and equitable. However, it is recommended that both parties living together consult with separate family law lawyers in order to obtain independent legal advice.
Understanding Cohabitation Agreements
Cohabitation Agreements outline the division of assets in the event of relationship breakdown. Cohabitation Agreements are similar to “prenuptial agreements” or “marriage agreements” in that they legally bind parties who are planning to enter in a common-law relationship or are currently living together.
Cohabitation Agreements can be wide-ranging, and generally include the following:
- who retains ownership of an asset that was obtained during the relationship;
- who retains ownership of an asset that was obtained before the relationship began;
- who pays for debts accrued during the relationship;
- who pays for debts accrued before the relationship began;
- who pays for household expenses; and
- who is entitled to inheritance and how is it divided if both families are combined.
It is important to seek legal advice prior to entering into a Cohabitation Agreement to ensure the terms are fair and do not violate the personal freedom of either party.
Cohabitation Agreement Enforcements
A Cohabitation Agreement may be successfully challenged in Court if one of the parties fails to fully disclose their assets or does not adhere to any one of the criteria.
Cohabitation Agreements are most likely to be upheld by a Court when both parties have sought and received independent legal advice, and the terms listed are fair and reasonable.
Purpose of Cohabitation Agreements
Cohabitation Agreements are for couples who are living together, or intend to live together, without getting married.
They allow common-law couples to protect their individual assets and provide an exit strategy in the event of relationship breakdown.
The purpose of a Cohabitation Agreement is to assist in allowing for a “speedier” and more amicable separation since the manner in which assets and debts will be divided has already been agreed to.
Cohabitation Agreements may also act as a “blueprint” to drawing up a Marriage Agreement (aka Prenuptial Agreement) if the common-law relationship turns into a marriage.
Entering into a Cohabitation Agreement
The subject of Cohabitation Agreement may seem unromantic and pessimistic, particularly when a relationship is strong presently. However, it is important to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances.
Entering into a Cohabitation Agreement when you are on good terms with your partner is significantly preferable than attempting to deal with these sensitive issues after the relationship has broken down.
Cohabitation Agreements can help reduce stress and disputes that may come with decision-making if the relationship comes to an end. They also ensure that both parties have visibility of what will be protected in terms of individual assets and inheritances, and what treatment will be given to liabilities and debts.
Cohabitation Agreements do not extend to child and parenting matters.
Not Having a Cohabitation Agreement
In British Columbia, the division of assets for common-law couples after a relationship ends is governed by the Family Law Act. In most cases – assets and debt are divided equally between the two parties if there is no Agreement in place.
Without a written Agreement, each person becomes responsible for proving, through tangible evidence, what assets they brought into the relationship. This may be difficult to prove in cases where the relationship is no longer amicable or cooperative. The process of separating can become costly and may take years to resolve.
This is why the best time to make a Cohabitation Agreement is when the parties are on good terms with each other, and when there is little to dispute.
Contents of a Cohabitation Agreement
The following are examples of things which may be included in a Cohabitation Agreement:
- division of family property, such as assets, possessions, pensions, and real estate;
- division of, and responsibility for, debts and liabilities;
- confirming the present owner of certain property;
- determining responsibility for credit cards;
- determining how and what amounts may be spent on household expenses;
- spousal support, if any, after a breakup; and
- the manner in which disagreements can be resolved.
The following are examples of things which cannot be included in a Cohabitation Agreement:
- terms which govern the manner in which certain persons must behave;
- terms which govern parenting responsibilities for unborn children; and
- terms which govern child support obligations when the couple do not have any children.
Learn More about Entering Cohabitation Agreements in BC
Contact the family law lawyers at Solimano Law today to learn more about your rights and options. We are experienced at preparing Cohabitation Agreements with terms that are fair to both you and your partner.
Disclaimer – The information contained herein is of a general nature. It is not intended to be legal advice and it is not intended to address the exact circumstances of any particular individual or entity. No one should rely on or act upon such information without receiving appropriate professional advice and without a thorough examination of their particular situation. Please contact our office if you have any questions with respect to the content of this entry, this website, or our Terms and Conditions .