What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

a couple arguing in mediation about their cohabitation agreement

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We’ve discussed marriage agreements here on the Legal Wire Blog before, but you may not know that similar legal documents exist for couples that aren’t yet married or don’t plan on getting married. These are called cohabitation agreements, and they can serve many different purposes.

a common-law couple discussing their cohabitation agreement

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legal document that outlines the property, savings, and debt of both you and your partner. This document creates a plan for what happens if you separate from your partner, and makes it clear who gets what.

You can also use a cohabitation agreement to outline how you and your partner will handle other situations, should they arise.

A key aspect of these agreements is that you must live with your partner in order to create a legally valid cohabitation agreement. It doesn’t matter who your partner is, what genders you or your partner identify as, or whether or not you plan to get married one day. If you live with someone else and share expenses, you could potentially benefit from a cohabitation agreement.

Cohabitation agreements are legally binding in B.C. If you already have one and you wish to change it, you and your partner will need to create a modification to your agreement, which is often quite complicated.

a couple signing a cohabitation agreement at their family lawyer's office

How do you make a cohabitation agreement?

Before you start drafting your cohabitation agreement, you and your partner will need to take some time to make a list of all the important things you own.

This can include:

  • Physical assets, like furniture, cars, memorabilia, etc.
  • Savings, including TFSAs and RRSPs
  • Property
  • Investments
  • Debts

This list is essential, as you’ll need to reference it when determining who gets what after a breakup.

Once you’ve taken inventory of your possessions, you’ll need to get in touch with a family lawyer. Though you can write an agreement on your own, a family lawyer can help you with this. It is often easiest for you to have a lawyer complete this step, as a lawyer can write your agreement in the most effective and legally sound way.

When making your cohabitation agreement, your lawyer, at your direction, will dictate in the agreement how your property will be divided in the event of a breakup. The same goes for debt, pensions, and any other financial assets or liabilities.

You can then also lay out if and how you or your partner will receive spousal support if you were to break up.

Many lawyers, like us, charge very reasonable rates for simple agreements.

A family lawyer can also act as or provide a witness for the signing of your agreement.

a couple arguing in mediation about their cohabitation agreement

What can’t be in the agreement?

There are some things that a cohabitation agreement cannot do, and most of this pertains to parenting.

Parenting time, child support, and parental responsibilities are all examples of issues that cannot be legally enforced by a cohabitation agreement.

If you’re looking to create a family law agreement that can cover parenting disputes or issues, you’ll need a parenting order or a parenting agreement. To get started on one, give us a call, or fill out the contact form on this page and get in touch with an experienced family lawyer.

What if you don’t have a cohabitation agreement?

Things can get a little complicated if you don’t have a cohabitation agreement and you disagree with your partner about who keeps what.

It may benefit you to seek the help of a mediator, who can work with you and your partner to establish a mutually beneficial agreement.

You may need a separation agreement, if you haven’t already created a cohabitation agreement.

The family lawyers at Dhanu Dhaliwal Law Group can help you with any of these needs. Get in touch with us today through our contact form or by calling our office.

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