Living together with a partner—cohabitating—can be a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. Some couples live together as a trial or precursor before marriage, while others have no intent to marry.
In any case, cohabitation represents a significant stage in a relationship, as partners are choosing to combine their individual possessions and often finances, at least where living costs are concerned.
Too often, in the event that the relationship ends, many cohabitating exes encounter complications and undue conflict that stems from sharing assets and finances without a proper legal document in place.
The proper document to financially protect both cohabitating members of a domestic partnership is known as a cohabitation agreement.
With help from one of the experienced barristers at Jennings Family Law, couples interested in cohabitation can set up an agreement that establishes in advance all important details in regards to asset ownership and finances. This will allow the avoidance of unnecessary disputes and other frustrations should the relationship meet an unfortunate end.
A cohabitation agreement is a legal contract for unmarried but living together couples that provides for division of property, shared debts, and other significant assets in the event that the partners separate.
Although they share certain characteristics and are sometimes compared to other legal documents such as prenuptial agreements, marital contracts, or domestic agreements, cohabitation agreements do not depend on either formal or common law marriage in order to become valid.
The main benefits of having a cohabitation agreement are the myriad protections it offers: protection from costly litigation at the end of relationship, protection of children’s interests (when applicable), protection of personal funds and assets, protection of business ventures, protection from creditors, etc.
A cohabitation agreement offers a certain amount of emotional protection, too. No one wants to approach a new and exciting stage in a relationship, such as living together, entertaining the possibility that the relationship could end.
By addressing questions about finances and other property when a relationship is good allows both partners to come from a place of love and caring rather than have their judgment clouded by the complicated emotions that accompany a breakup and often lead to contentiousness.
Since cohabitation agreements settle details in advance, breakups can be simpler, swifter, and less painful when one is in place.
All couples moving in together with the intent to combine finances and assets to some degree should consider a cohabitation agreement based on the wide range of protections they provide.
For those who meet certain criteria, a cohabitation agreement or other similar legal contract is crucial:
Generally, the higher the stakes from a financial standpoint, the more each partner stands to lose if the relationship should end and the more protections their cohabitation agreement could provide.
A good family lawyer is thorough in scope and tailors a cohabitation agreement to his or her client’s particular needs. As most cohabitation agreements involve property, it is essential that your lawyer understand and abide by the regulations set in the Family Property Act of Alberta (FPA Alberta), particularly in regards to keeping you (their client) informed and protected.
For example, in order for your cohabitation agreement to be valid and enforceable, both you and your partner, in front of your individual attorneys, must acknowledge the following:
Your family lawyer also protects you and your interests by informing you of your rights and obligations in regards to disclosure of property and prepares you with what to expect from a legal standpoint should you and your partner decide to end your relationship.
The specific details covered by a particular cohabitation agreement depend largely on the assets involved, the needs of each partner, and the goals they as a couple want to achieve with the document. In general, most cohabitation agreements cover the following:
Cohabitation and other types of marriage and partnership agreements protect your family’s best interests. To learn more about how Jennings Family Law can help, call us at (403) 316-0138 or contact our Calgary office to schedule a consultation today.