Common-law spouses can have peace of mind with cohabitation agreements

On behalf of Gary Kirk of Kirk Montoute Dawson LLP posted in Family Law on Sunday, January 11, 2015.

Many couples in Alberta and throughout Canada are in relationships that have lasted for many years, but the couples have chosen not to marry. The parties love and are committed to each other, but marriage may not be in the couple’s near future or even desired.

Still, couples should understand that common-law spouses are not afforded the same rights as legally married spouses. This difference can come as a shock in the event that common-law spouses decide to separate after significant assets have been acquired in the course of the relationship. Property is not automatically divided in these situations.

For common-law spouses, a cohabitation agreement can provide clarity regarding each spouse’s rights and obligations during the relationship, as well as in the unfortunate event that the parties separate. Such an agreement isn’t only about planning for a possible negative outcome; establishing the terms of a cohabitation agreement can help ensure that spouses are on the same page, and both parties can have peace of mind.

In addition to clarifying the division of assets, a range of other matters, including spousal support obligations, can be written into a cohabitation agreement. Essentially, such an agreement can be tailored to the couple’s unique circumstances. Common-law spouses who enter into cohabitation agreements are committed to respecting each other’s rights and responsibilities, and a lawyer with experience in reaching consensus through non-adversarial processes can help common-law partners establish an agreement that meets their specific needs.

Spouses who are in a common-law relationship are invited to visit our cohabitation agreement overview.

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