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Cohabitation agreements help couples prepare for the unforeseen

Many couples are choosing to join their lives formally, although not through marriage. With more couples cohabiting in Ontario, the necessity of having cohabitation agreements in place becomes clear.

There are rules under family law when it comes to living together in a romantic relationship, and it’s important to be aware of what those are and what to do about them.

Strings are still attached

Even though you and your partner may not have been formally married, you may have a common law marriage under Ontario law. Common law marriage automatically goes into effect for couples who have lived together for three consecutive years – or for one year with a biological or adopted child.

However, just because you and your partner live together doesn't always mean that everything you own would be split down the middle, should you separate. You can change that, though, if you set up a cohabitation agreement prior to moving in together. This is a legally binding agreement that spells out what should happen to your assets in the event that you and your partner separate.

It’s important to plan for the unexpected. A cohabitation agreement can save both parties considerable financial and emotional resources in the long run. It may seem like an unromantic and undesirable conversation to have, but this type of document will provide some security for the future. It could also be rolled into a prenuptial agreement, should you and your partner later decide to marry.

Unmarried partners in many parts of the country have few rights when it comes to property, so writing things down formally is wise. An Ontario family lawyer can help clients living with their partners to fashion comprehensive cohabitation agreements. These agreements can be particular to each client's individual circumstances. It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to safeguarding assets in any situation.

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