When a couple faces a decision centered on the future of their relationship, they often turn to the legal system for guidance and stability. Fortunately, couples in Ontario have options to help them resolve the difficulties they are facing.

In general, there are three types of domestic contracts that couples can use to detail certain terms of the relationship. Couples can make arrangements based on marital assets, who is responsible for what debt and how various property might be divided if the relationship ends.

  • Cohabitation agreement: There are numerous reasons why a couple would want to formalize their relationship without getting married. For these individuals, a cohabitation agreement is a domestic contract that serves an important purpose. Typically, these couples specify how finances will be addressed in the relationship and what will happen if the relationship ends. For example, the couple can agree up front about things like property division and spousal support.
  • Marriage contract: In short, a marriage contract is like a cohabitation agreement for couples who ultimately decide to get married. While the marriage contract cannot make specific statements about child support or access (these issues must be addressed when the couple actually separates), nearly any other topic can be discussed. Couples often stipulate financial matters such as marital versus non-marital assets, how property will be divided or who takes responsibility over which debts.
  • Separation agreement: When the end of the relationship becomes a reality, couples will need to explore the separation agreement. This is a way to resolve numerous disputes that range from assets, debts, property and matters involving your children. These types of agreements tend to require a significant amount of negotiation and compromise. It is important to work with an experienced family law lawyer to ensure your rights are protected and the agreement is reached in a fair, professional manner.

The drafting or alteration of these documents must follow specific rules, and it is wise to proceed with the guidance of a legal professional. Do not hesitate to discuss your situation with an Ontario family law lawyer who can answer your questions about various complex topics.