September 30, 2023

Cohabitation and Marriage Agreements might be overwhelming in case you don’t know the place to start out.  As a household lawyer practising in BC I’m continuously requested many questions on marriage agreements.  I’m hopeful that this text will enable you to by answering the most typical questions I get requested by associates, relations, present and potential purchasers.

Do I actually need a cohabitation settlement or marriage settlement?

As household legal professionals, we can’t make this resolution for you and everybody’s wants are distinctive. For those who perceive the essential assumptions inside household regulation throughout a separation, resembling 50/50 break up of property and debt acquired in the course of the relationship, together with improve in worth on something introduced into or acquired in the course of the relationship via inheritance or reward, or potential spousal assist entitlements payable, and people determinations don’t sit properly with you- you SHOULD get a cohabitation settlement or marriage settlement.

Why? Marriage Agreements permit you to higher management how your property can be divided and the way a lot spousal assist could also be payable by both companion ought to your relationship breakdown. These Agreements are additionally meant to acknowledge what every companion is bringing into the connection, how any improve in worth can be handled, how items, inheritances, settlements, windfalls, and even how pets can be handled. You’ll be able to regain management of the method and set a framework for the way all the things can be handled.

Are marriage agreements well worth the paper they’re printed on?


To assist make sure that the Cohabitation or Marriage Settlement is enforceable and that the Court docket won’t overturn it or discover the contents considerably unfair to both particular person, the next must be thought of:

  1. be very thorough and embrace as a lot element as doable about every companion’s present and potential monetary future;
  2. rent a lawyer that makes a speciality of household regulation to draft the Settlement;
  3. present full monetary disclosure;
  4. embrace a evaluate clause that offers the events an opportunity to make revisions periodically, if you’ll really do a evaluate;
  5. if both social gathering has a really excessive present or potential web price, embrace some stage of property division;
  6. if there are kids or plans for kids, embrace some stage of spousal assist; and
  7. each events ought to have unbiased authorized recommendation from their very own separate lawyer.

For those who comply with the rules listed above, you’ll keep away from lots of the pitfalls which have traditionally made these Agreements unenforceable up to now.

This feels like a variety of work, the place do I even begin?

Begin with a dialog. The very best place to start out is to have a really mature and open dialog along with your companion about every of your values, monetary objectives, and finally the imaginative and prescient you every have of your future collectively. Ideally, you’ll have these conversations early within the relationship that will help you to find out you probably have a appropriate plan along with your potential long-term companion. The earlier you may have these conversations, the simpler it’s to find out in case your values and objectives line up.

When you perceive each of your intentions and have agreed {that a} cohabitation settlement or marriage settlement matches the wants of your relationship, one among it is best to rent a lawyer to start out drafting the Settlement. This lawyer will assist reply your whole questions and make sure that your intentions are captured throughout the Settlement.

What if I’m already married or thought of common-law, do I’ve choices?


Cohabitation agreements and marriage agreements might be entered into at any time within the relationship together with earlier than you progress in collectively, after dwelling collectively for 2 years, and even after being married for any period of time. Nonetheless, the problem with these Agreements is that they’re more durable to barter for the reason that rights and tasks granted by the laws are already in impact. Thus, there could also be much less incentive for both social gathering to signal relying on their respective monetary place.  For relationships of brief length, particularly with out kids, there should still be negotiating room, however in case you’ve been in a relationship for 10 years, negotiations are going to be fully dependent upon the goodwill of each events concerned.

How do I do know if I’m in a common-law relationship?

Many individuals have no idea if their relationship is taken into account common-law. The definition of a common-law relationship varies inside Canada.

Federally, people are thought of common-law in the event that they stay collectively in a marital relationship and will not be married, for interval of 12 or extra steady months (or for CRA functions have a baby collectively). That is related for submitting your taxes however is just not the definition throughout the context of household regulation.

Provincially, every province has a distinct definition. In British Columbia, a person is in a common-law relationship in the event that they:

  1. stay collectively in a wedding like relationship for not less than 2 years; or
  2. Though they aren’t common-law, and can’t apply for property division underneath the Household Legislation Act, a pair who’ve a baby collectively are thought of spouses for the aim of spousal assist.

Is there legally a distinction between being common-law and being married?

The distinction between the 2 has change into much less apparent after the Household Relations Act was changed with the Family Law Act in 2013. That is the piece of laws that governs household regulation inside British Columbia.

With this variation in laws, common-law spouses had the identical rights and tasks as married spouses. This was a progressive change that positioned a better worth on the contributions of a common-law partner to the connection and allowed for extra equality within the absence of marriage.

The actual distinction is that when the connection breaks down, married {couples} should search a proper divorce via the Supreme Court docket of British Columbia, whereas common-law spouses can separate with out formal enter from the Court docket. There are additionally variations within the limitation intervals set on each for after they can search spousal assist or division of property reduction from the Court docket.

This course of doesn’t should be overwhelming. We’re right here to reply any questions you might have about acquiring a cohabitation or marriage settlement. It’s higher to know your choices after which determine the place to go from there. Name 604-974-9529 or get in contact.