What is a Marriage Agreement?

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Thinking about getting married? If you’re getting married soon, you’ve probably heard from at least a few people that you might want to think about “getting a prenup.” More formally known as a “marriage agreement”, a lot of couples choose not to get a prenup because some believe that getting one can sow the seeds of a future divorce, or create an easy way out of the relationship in the future.

These worries are generally ill-founded. While divorce is the furthest thing from your mind while writing vows and planning a wedding, it can still benefit you to consider forming a marriage agreement or cohabitation agreement. In fact, your agreement can contain much more than simply what will happen in the event of a divorce. 

married couple with marriage agreement dancing

What is a Marriage Agreement?

A marriage agreement, also known as a cohabitation agreement, is a type of contract. It lays out “promises” you and your spouse make to each other in legal writing. These promises aren’t the same as your vows – they’re more logistical. 

Generally speaking, the main points of a marriage agreement will be about what happens if the relationship ends or if problems arise. The goal is to minimize future conflict in these scenarios.

A marriage agreement can be made between spouses who are already married, or it can be made by a couple planning to marry. It’s also completely optional. Even though it can be in your best interest to create one, you don’t have to make a marriage agreement just because you are or are going to be married.

A cohabitation agreement is slightly different from a marriage agreement. It can be made between two people who are already living together, or who are planning to live together.

You don’t have to be married to have a cohabitation agreement, and again, you don’t have to make a cohabitation agreement just because you live with someone.

marriage agreement benefits newlyweds

What Issues can a Marriage Agreement Solve?

Typically, a marriage or cohabitation agreement talks about how property and debts will be managed during the relationship. Each type of agreement also talks about how property and debts will be divided if the couple breaks up. They sometimes also say if spousal support will be paid if the relationship ends.

For example, an agreement might say that in the event you and your partner split up:

  •         each of you will keep whatever property you had before you started living together
  •         one of you will have the right to stay in the family home (at least temporarily)
  •         one of you will (or won’t) receive support from the other for a certain period of time
  •         one of you will get a certain share of the property you acquire during the relationship

There are many possible arrangements for how property, debts, and spousal support can be dealt with.

A marriage or cohabitation agreement might also cover what will happen during the relationship. For example, it might say how household chores or household expenses will be handled.

Changing a Marriage Agreement

As long as both you and your partner are on the same page, you can change, cancel, or alter your agreement at any time.

You can do this by making a new written agreement called an addendum agreement (also known as an amending agreement). This can be done as many times as you like (though we recommend not too many times), so there is no need to worry about how changes in lifestyle or your relationship may affect your agreement.

Get Help from a Family Lawyer

When most people hear “family lawyer,” they think “divorce lawyer,” but a family lawyer does so much more than just divorce!

The family lawyers here at Dhanu Dhaliwal Law Group take special joy in helping new couples create a future together. So if you need a marriage agreement, or if you have any questions about the legal process as it pertains to marriage, give us a call or fill out our contact form today. 

And whether you choose to use our services or not, congratulations, and many blessings for you and your partner’s future together!

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