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Some Information on Cohabitation or Marriage Agreements

Couples who have acquired assets before a new relationship and who have concerns about preserving individual holdings and determining how to treat new or jointly acquired property should think carefully about preparing a cohabitation agreement (where couples live together but are not legally married) or a marriage agreement (if contemplating marriage).

What Does the Agreement Do?
Each partner has the opportunity to address his or her concerns about the possible fate of both his or her own property and property acquired during the new relationship in the event the new relationship breaks down, or in the event of one partner’s death or incapacity.

An asset-rich partner can protect assets brought into the relationship, and an asset-poor partner can be assured that he or she will not leave with nothing if the relationship breaks down or ends with the death or incapacity of one of the partners.

These agreements can also protect assets one partner intends to be given to children of a previous relationship when that partner dies.

Why Is It important?
While there is no specific Alberta legislation that addresses the division of property upon breakdown of a common-law relationship, it cannot be assumed that each partner will leave the relationship with an equal division of both partners’ property or with what each brought into the relationship. Increasingly, a more equitable division is favoured.

Similarly, upon marriage breakdown, there is a presumption of an equal split of property; entering into a marriage contract can allow spouses to depart from that rather rigid standard.

Why Get a Cohabitation or Marriage Agreement?
We recommend that couples address their concerns about issues such as asset purchases (including real estate) and support intentions up front. That way, both partners have a clear understanding of the other’s expectations in the relationship, and they may plan for their future together more positively, with a clear understanding of their legal rights and obligations.

For more information about these agreements, please contact Wendy M. Phillips-Berard or Amanda Moroz, one of our Family Law Assistants, or telephone our office at 780-459-0133.