6 Things to include in a Cohabitation AgreementMay 15 2023
A cohabitation agreement is a legal document that sets out the rights and obligations of individuals who are living together, or contemplating living together, in a committed relationship but are not married. It typically makes clear what obligations will remain after a relationship ends.
Notably, in BC after living together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years you are considered common law spouses. These agreements can continue to apply after you are considered spouses under the law. The topics below also apply to prenuptial or marriage agreements which typically take effect upon marriage.
Assets: how assets acquired individually or jointly during the relationship will be divided in the partnership ends.
Debt allocation: specify how debts, such as student loans or credit card debts, will be distributed. This should include those brought into the relationship as well as how debts or liabilities acquired during the relationship will be divided upon separation.
Separate property: define and identify the assets that each partner brings into the relationship and confirm whether or not they are to remain separate property. This could include real property (land) or other things like bank accounts, vehicles or jewelry.
Joint property: outline how jointly acquired property, such as a shared home, vacation home or joint bank accounts, will be handled if the relationship ends.
Gifts: how gifts are dealt with, whether it be gifts between a couple or gifts given to the couple.
A Cohabitation Agreement typically specifies how financial responsibilities, such as rent, utilities and household expenses, will be divided between the partners.
An agreement can specify whether one spouse will be responsible for paying spousal support to the other in the event of a separation. It can also specify the amount of support as well as the duration of time it applies to. This can be helpful in setting expectations to avoid future conflicts.
Spousal Support, also known as alimony or spousal maintenance, refers to financial assistance designed to help support a financially dependent spouse and maintain their standard of living after the end of a relationship. The purpose is typically to address economic imbalances that may have occurred during the relationship, such as where one spouse may sacrifice their career or earning potential to support the other spouse or take care of household responsibilities or children.
Arrangements for Children
You can set out expectations around child support or residence for children, including children from prior relationships. This can also include a declaration about whether a party is “standing in the place” of a parent and what support is being provided. You can also include provisions around moving, and who is responsible for various parental obligations such as making healthcare decision in the case of separation.
Child Support obligations are determined by the income of both parents, the number of children and the particular needs of a child. It is unlikely that anything other than supporting the legislated Child Support Guidelines will be enforceable. Child Support is considered the entitlement of a child and therefore it cannot simply be waived by a parent ahead of time.
Ultimately, a court will always consider the best interest of a child in any arrangements regardless of whether there is an agreement in place.
Arrangements for Pets
While pets have traditionally been treated by the law as property, most families consider them more as children and the law is moving in this direction where best interest rather than just ownership is considered. Either way, pet custody and support can also be set out in a cohabitation agreement.
It is a good idea to review the agreement regularly and particular when there are any significant changes in circumstances such as having children, finances, jobs or sale of major assets. The more recent your agreement was agreed (or re-agreed) upon, the more likely it will be held enforceable if you end up in court.
If you are able to get on the same page while everyone is on good terms, this lessens the potential for a costly dispute later.
If you would like to discuss whether a cohabitation, prenuptial or marriage agreement are right for you please reach out to our litigation cold call team today at 778 666 3723 to meet with one of our Family Lawyers.