This is for information only, and is not legal advice. The following discussion comes from Script 162. When it comes to dealing with legal matters, you need to contact a legal representative for a consultation. You may contact the Ontario branch of the Canadian Bar Association by visiting their website, or calling 416-869-1390 for information.

Not everyone is Lucky in Relationships

Sadly, the divorce rate in Ottawa has reached a devastatingly high percentage, and where the relationship is an unmarried situation the separation rate is even a larger percentage. We are speaking about a 50% divorce rate for married couples throughout the Canadian capital of Ottawa across the rest of the country. The unfortunate thing about both types of relationships is that, on average, neither party is prepared for the possibility of becoming single again. This makes it important, in the light of this information, to consider having a backup plan for a ‘just in case’ scenario.

What is a Cohabitation and a Marriage Agreements?

The following is an explanation of what these documents are and how they can help in a crisis of separation. Furthermore, information is given on what these documents cannot do and it only pertains to those who are already married, and those who are not married and living together in Ottawa.

What Defines a Spouse?

The Provincial Family Law defines a spouse as

  • A person who is married

  • As a person who has been living with another, for a minimum period of no less than two consecutive years, in a marriage-like setting.

  • In addition, if a couple has been living together, unmarried and a child is born. The Family Law act adds this situation to the definition of what a spouse is.

The Definition of a Marriage and a Cohabitation Agreement

Both types of documents are binding legal contracts similar to a rental agreement one might have with a proprietor or a contract for a business partnership with another person in Ottawa. Therefore, each will describe in as much detail as possible the obligations set forth and designated for each party involved.

An agreement for marriage is between two individuals who plan to marry and it can also be for a couple who is already married. The same applies to a cohabitation agreement the couple may be living together or making plans to live together. In either situation, the agreements spell out who the parties are in addition to stating the purpose of the document creation.

Furthermore, the document describes promises that the individuals wish to make to each other. This normally covers what becomes at stake in the event of a separation. It can also set guidelines for how the relationship will function and describe when certain events may take place. This may translate into the date set for signing the agreement, the date of the actual move-in, or the date the marriage ceremony is to take place in Ottawa.

The Legal Necessities for each Type of Agreement

First both types of documents must be in writing, secondly both parties involved must sign and have the signature of a witness, usually at least one other person. The purpose of a witness is to show proof that the two parties named in the agreement did in fact sign the document. Moreover, the witness has no legal obligations otherwise.

The Typical Relevance for each Agreement is for Financial Purposes

The financial aspects of any relationship here in Ottawa are always going to come up as a matter for contention. Therefore, most agreements describe who is liable for managing debts, property ownership, and what will happen when and if the relationship dissolves. Further, there may be a brief description allowing or disallowing the payment of spousal support.

The agreements may state, for instance, all personal property will remain in the possession of each person should the relationship end. Additionally, should the couple split a provision might state that both have the right to continue living together while one receives support,  temporarily, and a financial percentage of family property. In certain scenarios, there may be coverage that states that the longer the relationships lasts each individual gains a proportional amount of each others excluded property.

As it stands, there are endless combinations of how property and finances are handled in Ottawa, which means it is necessary to discuss them with a lawyer when considering entering into either type of agreement with another person. Another aspect of any relationship is when and if children are born. This takes further stipulations on who will provide care and or child support, for the child or children should a relationship end.

In the Interest of Fairness

It makes sense that if two people want to enter into either type of agreement, they should each seek individual consultation with an Ottawa lawyer. This can provide a level of fairness that the courts can enforce should either party attempt to ignore the other’s stipulations within the agreement. Nonetheless, if a situation arises out of neither party disclosing full financial transparency rendering the agreement unbalanced. Then this becomes the cause for the courts to decide on the binding nature of the contract. This can happen if one or both individuals fail to seek counsel prior to entering into the agreement.

What the Ottawa Courts cannot enforce

Courts will not enforce stipulative instances that pertain to frequency of sex or childbearing, or a time frame for a relationship before it is to end. The law specifically sets forth certain obligations for parties who enter into a marriage with or without such documents as a marriage agreement.

In the event of Children entering into a Relationship

While wither type of agreement can provide guidelines for who is to provide both financial support and care for a child. Should the relationship end the agreement will no longer bind either party to the statements made to this end.

The Purpose for entering into a Cohabitation or Marriage Agreement in Ottawa

The intent for each type of agreement is to render the decision about how a relationship functions where financial management and property ownership are concerned, in addition to how these matters become handled should the relationship dissolve. The purpose becomes one of avoidance, ensuring there is little need for any litigation if a separation occurs. This takes the form of settling the division of financial responsibilities and property ahead of time.

For this reason, most of the agreements occur when an individual is preparing to get re-married or enter into another marriage-like relationship, in Ottawa, when children are involved or because of an unpleasant experience exiting a prior relationship.

Exiting an Agreement

If both individuals, living in Ottawa, can agree either type of agreement can end or they can change the guidelines of the agreement. The process for changing either the cohabitation or the marriage agreement is performed by creating an addendum or an amending agreement, which is an extension of the original document. The changes may be a totally new agreement, or it may follow the original with some minor changes in how things are handled. Naturally, a witness is involved when both parties sign the newly change document.

When to Consult a Lawyer

If you are thinking about drawing up either a marriage agreement or a cohabitation agreement, the best thing to do first is to discuss your ideas, intentions, and expectations with your partner. The next step would be to put what has been discussed in writing and have a lawyer look at it. If the lawyer may, they will draft a version so both parties’ can solidify the agreement in front of a witness. As a precaution, it is never wise to enter and agreement hurriedly just days before a planned union because it may be null and void.

Regardless if you recruit the aid of an Ottawa lawyer or not in the task of having an agreement written, it is prudent to seek their counsel on these matters. Specifically to help you understand the ramifications and how they can affect your obligations and rights once you sign.

The Need for Your Spouse to Consult a Lawyer

This is always a wise thing to do for both people preparing to sign an agreement of either type. This is because it will negate the statement of ignorance should one, or the other person tries to insinuate, in an Ottawa court, that there was little to no choice in signing or that they had no understanding of what type of document they had signed. In these scenarios a court will render an agreement instituted under duress as a null agreement making it void.

In Summary

If you are considering entering into any type of contractual agreement with another person in Ottawa the smart thing to do is to discuss all possible outcomes with that person. Then both people should have this same discussion with their own lawyer. Both the cohabitation agreement and a Marriage agreement deal with financial items contained within a marriage or a marriage-like relationship. This translates into each party having a legal safety net should one or the other break the agreement in any manner.

 Need local Ottawa legal advice? Try these Ottawa Lawyers:

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