In the eyes of the law, cohabitation is not the legal equivalent of marriage. However, it does make provisions for those who prefer that arrangement. A family lawyer not only works on matters such as child custody and support but also on issues pertaining to cohabitation.
Cohabitating couples may discover that their personal and financial lives become intertwined over time. Things can get messy if they split up, especially after buying or renting a home together, owning pets or opening joint bank accounts. Cohabitation agreements can make a breakup less contentious and keep your assets intact.
Is a cohabitation agreement right for you, and should you consult a family lawyer before signing one? Let’s discuss below:
What is a cohabitation agreement?
A cohabitation agreement is a legal document that protects your rights as a couple while guarding your personal assets and interests. It stipulates how you and your partner handle various matters while living together, such as finances. It also addresses such matters if the relationship ends.
Ideally, you should complete a cohabitation agreement just before you move in; however, it is never too late in a relationship to sign one. Furthermore, you and your significant other can draft it in a manner that makes it viable as a marriage contract if you decide to tie the knot.
Reasons for a cohabitation agreement
Things can get complicated when you live with your partner. That’s why a cohabitation agreement can be one of the best decisions you can make for your relationship. It is in your best interest to consider one if you:
- Share joint bank accounts, credit cards and other financial products
- Intend to purchase property and other major assets items together
- Need to protect your financial contributions such as mortgage payments, utility bills or car payments, especially if your partner owns the house or car
- Find it necessary to outline the financial responsibilities to be met by each person
- Want to protect a fair share of the wealth that you each generate, as when one of you handles the expenses while the other goes to school
When you shouldn’t sign a cohabitation agreement
A cohabitation agreement is not ideal for all couples, however. It may not be necessary if you:
- Don’t own any major assets
- Intend to use it to resolve matters concerning child custody or support (cohabitation agreements do not address such issues)
- Have no plans to merge financial accounts
- Are uncomfortable signing one, or if your partner is pressuring you
- Are presented with a Cohabitation Agreement that only favours the other party
Why you should consult a family lawyer
Some couples assume that a cohabitation agreement is legally binding if they simply draft one and sign it before a witness, but this is untrue. Hiring a family lawyer is the only way to guarantee that your agreement is prepared correctly. Family lawyers protect your rights by:
- Representing you during negotiations
- Advising you on whether the terms suit your best interests
- Helping you understand your rights and responsibilities
- Ensuring that both parties enforce the agreement
To benefit from reliable, independent legal advice during the process, you and your partner should each hire a family lawyer.
Are you looking for a family lawyer in Oakville?
The team at Carpenter Family Law in Oakville will work on your behalf to protect your interests with a properly drafted cohabitation agreement. Our family lawyers also have experience dealing with child custody, property division, child support and spousal support matters. Contact us today at 905-842-0635 to schedule an appointment.