Legal Insights / Family Law / Cohabitation Agreements: what is it, information needed, costs and timeline

Cohabitation Agreements: what is it, information needed, costs and timeline

Mar 26 2024

In British Columbia, once a couple has been living together in a “marriage-like relationship” they are considered to be common law spouses. What this means is that the parties have the same rights as if they were legally married for such things as property division and spousal support. Guardianship, parenting time and child support are a bit more complicated as they do not necessarily depend on the length or characterization of the parents’ relationship.

What is A Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement, also called a “pre-nup” (for pre-nuptial 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.

These agreements can continue to be in force after you are considered spouses under the law, either due to length of living together or by legal marriage. They also can have times for review or may cease to be in force upon marriage. These sorts of terms are all negotiable.

The most common topics that are covered include:

  • Property: define and identify what assets a partner brings into the relationship and confirm if they are to remain separate property; how assets or debts acquired individually or jointly during the relationship will be divided in the partnership ends; how to handle property jointly acquired during the relationship; and how to divide gifts given to the couple or between the couple should the relationship end.
  • Spousal Support (also known as alimony or spousal maintenance): specify when a party becomes eligible for spousal support and the amount or duration of that support, and on what conditions.
  • Arrangements for Children: set out expectations around child support or residence for children, including children from prior relationships. Ultimately, if the court is asked to intervene the best interest of a child will apply regardless of any agreements and to be enforceable child support must be in line with legal obligations.
  • Arrangements for Pets: pet support and custody can be set out. The law recently adjusted to acknowledge companion animals as more than just property. You can read more about this in our recent blog post here: What About the Dog? Divorce and Companion Animals

Information You Will Be Asked to Provide

  1. For each party: full name, address, birthdate and status prior to the relationship
  2. For each party: occupation, employer and annual salary/earnings
  3. Plans for marriage (if any): date and location
  4. When the parties started cohabiting or when they plan to
  5. Details of any children either party has: full name, birthdate, who are the parents, what (if any) support arrangements are currently in place
  6. In whose residence will the parties reside or are they purchasing a new residence
  7. List of each parties’ financial information: assets and debts, including identifying information and current value; real estate, pensions, investments, retirement savings, large assets like vehicles, boats, etc.
  8. List of any joint assets and debts
  9. Details of any business interest each of the parties has
  10. Pets details: name, age, breed/description

Things to Consider for First Meeting

At our first meeting, we will discuss your rights and obligations in relation to relationship breakdown. It is helpful if you come in to the meeting having considered your wishes around the following items:

  1. What will be maintained as separate property/what will be joint property
  2. Intentions around income from or increased equity in property
  3. Spousal support
  4. Parenting arrangements and child support
  5. Arrangements for pets
  6. What happens to the family residence upon separation
  7. Gifts, windfalls and inheritances
  8. Whether parties have or want to agree to sign documents naming each other as enduring Power of Attorney or representative for healthcare decisions
  9. What happens if a party dies
  10. Effective date for the agreement
  11. What defines a separation
  12. Dispute resolution procedures


The minimum fee for a cohabitation agreement is $2,500 and this is what you will initially be asked to pay as a retainer. It is impossible for us to assess at the outset the precise fee as it will depend on the  complexity of the arrangements that you would like included, as well as whether amendments are required once reviewed by your partner. The typical cost ranges from $2,500-$5,000 plus tax.


As with cost, this largely depends on the complexity of the agreement. It is also advisable that there be financial disclosure as part of the agreement and your partner be given an opportunity to obtain independent legal advice before signing it, which takes time and may require revisions be made to the agreement. The typical timeline for cohabitation agreements is 1 – 2 months, however if substantial financial disclosure needs to take place it can take several months to finalize so it is a good idea to start this process early.

Need Help?

Please reach out to our Litigation Intake Team at 778.666.3723 or by email to First we will need to confirm who the parties are and that we are able to represent you. Then we will set you up with a member of our Family Law team who will be happy to assist in preparing your cohabitation agreement.

Please note it is important that we are able to give you personal advice and so even though preparing this agreement may not be adversarial, we can only represent one of the parties to the cohabitation agreement.

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