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Cohabitation Agreement

In Canada, signing a cohabitation agreement drafted by a lawyer can be one of the most crucial decisions that you make after entering a common law relationship. Common law couples do not have the same rights and responsibilities married couples get after separation. Therefore, it is wise for all couples in a common-law relationship to consult with a family lawyer. The experienced lawyers at Nussbaum Family Law can provide independent legal advice on protecting your rights by setting legal obligations and boundaries should the relationship end.
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What is a cohabitation agreement?

This binding legal agreement is for couples who live together in the same household but are not married. It is similar to a marriage contract and can protect you from unnecessary costs and litigation in the case of separation or the end of the relationship.

It is similar to a prenuptial agreement but does not require the parties to be legally married. This advantage means unmarried couples can benefit from writing up their own agreement.

The agreement outlines any shared property between the parties. The properties you will acquire while in the relationship are considered shared property under Ontario’s Family Law Act (FLA).

If the partners in a common law relationship eventually get married, then the agreement automatically becomes a marriage contract or a marriage agreement.

Most common-law couples use the document to outline who will get what property after separating. Meanwhile, others use the agreement to decide crucial matters that may come up during the relationship. 

For example, people can use the written agreement to determine how they spend their income and who will be responsible for expenses. They can also use it to highlight specifics about their bank accounts and other household expenses.

However, people cannot use cohabitation agreements to make provisions regarding child support or parenting time. Moreover, if the partners agree on how they will handle their matrimonial home, they must change the conditions after getting married.

If the common-law partners get married, both parties have an equal right to live and stay in the family home. Neither a marriage contract nor a cohabitation agreement can change this rule about a family property.




If the relationship ends, a cohabitation agreement can direct:

  • Finances
  • Spousal support
  • Division of property 
  • Who has to move out of the home
  • Who owns the belongings that are bought while together
  • Retirement savings
  • Investment in the home
  • Debt
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Mother holding child


You cannot include custody of and access to children if the relationship ends. Couples must decide on child custody after they dissolve the relationship. The courts will need to approve the child custody agreement.

Legal Benefits of Having a Cohabitation Agreement

People in a common-law relationship might wonder why they must go through the trouble of preparing a cohabitation agreement. Read on to learn the two significant legal advantages of creating this agreement.

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Preventing Inequality

A cohabitation agreement underscores what will happen to the couple’s properties and finances if they separate. This advantage can be helpful if one spouse is at home to care for the children and is financially dependent on their partner.

For example, a woman leaves her common-law partner. At the start of their relationship, she agreed to take care of their children and stop working. After their breakup, she struggles financially, and her partner refuses to help her. A cohabitation agreement can discuss the payment of alimony for her or an increase of child support required by law.

Reflects Necessary Changes

Amending a cohabitation agreement is always possible and can be easy. Both parties can cancel or modify the contract as their life together changes. As long as the two people involved are on the same page, they can change the agreement anytime they want.

Family law experts recommend that common-law couples review their agreement at least once yearly to keep it updated.

For example, a woman had a modest income when she started living with her common-law spouse. Their agreement underscored that she was to be paid alimony in the event of a separation.

However, after a period of time, the situations of the two parties have reversed. Her partner lost their job, and she got a promotion. The two decided to make amendments to their agreement to reflect this change. After the amendment, the partner earning more money will be the one to make financial support payments.

Call Nussbaum Family Law To Know More About
Cohabitation Agreements

Call Nussbaum Family Law To Know More About Cohabitation Agreements

The lawyers at Nussbaum Family Law will examine your unique situation and explain your legal options. We will take the time to understand your needs. Our team of expert family law lawyers has your best interests in mind.

For over ten years, we have helped thousands of clients in Toronto with their cohabitation agreements. For more information about how our team of Family lawyers in Ontario can help, contact Nussbaum Family Law to receive solid legal counsel.

FAQs on Cohabitation Agreements in Ontario

In Ontario, courts can review and overturn a cohabitation or marriage agreement. The court can overturn the agreement if they decide the document is unreasonable. They can also overturn if they deem one of the parties involved entered the agreement through undue influence or coercion.

Seek legal advice to ensure that your agreement is done correctly. It is recommended that each party have their own legal counsel. This way, the two parties both had a lawyer review the document so they could understand the legal implications before signing it.

If couples in Ontario want to have a legally binding cohabitation agreement, they need to sign their agreement and have it notarized.