A Few Quick Points About Cohabitation Agreements

By Martin Rumack

October 25, 2014

A Few Quick Points About Cohabitation Agreements

By Martin K.I. Rumack

In Ontario, a Cohabitation Agreement is a signed agreement between you and another person with whom you are in a common-law relationship.  It a legal contract that is designed to protect your respective rights.

It sets out what both of you want, in terms of the financial and family arrangements while you live together.    For example, it can address: 

  • who-pays-for-what,  in terms of household and other living expenses while you are cohabiting
  • who owns any items that you buy during the relationship and while sharing a home It can also address what happens if your relationship ends, for example:
  • how your property will be divided
  • how much support will be paid, and by whom
  • who has to move out of the home if the relationship ends

If you and your common-law partner later decide to get married, then the Cohabitation Agreement becomes your marriage contract, and continues to govern the issues it addresses. If you and your new- spouse want to change any aspects of it, a new agreement has to be reached between you.

2) What Does it NOT Cover? 

A Cohabitation Agreement cannot address issues relating to custody or access of any children you may have together; any clauses that purport to do so will have no legaL effect,  (Simply put, this because these items must be determined if and when your relationship ends, based primarily on the best interest of your children at that particular time, and therefore cannot be determined by you and the other parent in advance).

  • What Makes it Legal?

In order for a Cohabitation Agreement to be legal in Ontario, it must be:

-in writing

-signed by both of you in front of a witness

-signed by that same witness as well 

Any changes to the Cohabitation Agreement can be negotiated by both of you and committed to writing as well, and then signed in the same manner. The witness must again be present and provide his or her signature as before.

Ideally, before agreeing to sign a Cohabitation Agreement, each of you should have a separate lawyer to give you advice. Although the lack of independent legal advice does not automatically invalidate any agreement you may reach, in some circumstances it can be one of several important factors influencing a court in deciding whether or not to overturn the Agreement.

  • How Does It Get Enforced?

Once a Cohabitation Agreement is signed, you must both adhere to its terms.  If that does not happen, particularly if the relationship has come to an end, then the help of a court may be enlisted to settle any issues that need to be resolved between you.

Do you have further questions about Cohabitation Agreements?  Please Contact Martin Rumack at 416 961 3441

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