With shared lives come shared responsibilities, and it is essential to protect your rights and assets in case the unexpected happens. This is where family law agreements come into play. These agreements are designed to address various aspects of the relationship, including financial matters, distribution or household duties, property ownership, and what happens in the event of a separation or death of one partner.

This blog post will explore what family law agreements are, the different types available, and how they can help families find stability and resolution in challenging times.

Family Law Agreements

Domestic agreements can include marriage, cohabitation, and separation agreements:

Marriage & Cohabitation Agreements

A marriage agreement, or a “pre-nuptial agreement,” is signed when parties marry or plan to marry. The typical purpose behind these agreements is to determine what will happen if the relationship breaks down, but it can also cover how things are handled during the relationship.

In today’s modern world, many couples choose to live together without getting married. Whether it is for practical reasons, personal beliefs, or simply a matter of timing, cohabitation has become increasingly common. A cohabitation agreement, also known as a “living together agreement,” is a legally binding contract that outlines the rights and responsibilities of unmarried couples who live together.

Under the Family Law Act, couples who live together in a marriage-like relationship for two years become common-law spouses, which entitles them to the same rights as married couples if they separate. As a result, there are no important differences between a marriage and a cohabitation agreement.

Separation Agreements

Separation agreements are made by married or unmarried couples when they decide to separate. These agreements are designed to provide clarity and structure when planning for parenting issues, property division, support payments, and other related matters.

Why Family Law Agreements Are Important

Family law agreements appeal to parties who want more certainty, structure, and control before, during, or after their relationship. The rationale behind making a family law agreement is that it is much more efficient and cost-effective to settle disputes amongst yourselves rather than having the courts solve them for you. They also provide more room for creativity and flexibility than a court order, allowing parties to tailor the agreements to their circumstances and needs. The overall goal is to protect all the parties involved and mitigate potential conflicts.

Family law agreements can address what happens in case of a separation. Common issues include:

  1. How to divide property and other assets. Who keeps the house, car, art collection?
  2. Who is going to move out of the family home first?
  3. Arrangements for pets.
  4. The payment or waiver of spousal support.

Family Law Agreements are Contracts

These agreements are legally binding contracts that outline each party’s entitlements and responsibilities towards each other. Both parties expect to be held responsible for fulfilling their obligations. Family law agreements are typically created through negotiation, mediation, or collaboration with the assistance of legal professionals.

It is important to note that there is no legal requirement to sign a marriage or cohabitation agreement, and the person you are living with cannot force you to sign one, either. With or without an agreement, if issues arise, remedies may still be available under the common law, the Divorce Act, and the Family Law Act.

Considerations When Writing an Agreement

Successfully negotiating and finalizing a family law agreement involves more than just putting essential details on paper and signing it. If one of the parties later has a problem with the agreement, it can be subject to review by a court, which may determine whether such an agreement is fair. If an agreement was unfairly negotiated, is significantly unfair, or becomes significantly unfair, the court will generally be willing to assess the matter and may make an order on different terms. Clarity and fairness are the primary factors in ensuring the validity of such agreements.

Lawyers typically draft these agreements. It is not recommended that you try to draft an agreement yourself, as family law agreements are complex.

Fairness must be present at every stage, from negotiations to drafting to signing. Those involved must comprehend the agreement, can agree with it, and do so willingly. Genuine understanding, capability, and voluntary agreement are fundamental to the process.

Parties should consider the following:

  1. Have a mature and open conversation with your partner about your values and long-term goals. Does a family law agreement fit your needs and circumstances?
  2. Each person should fully disclose and obtain as much information as necessary to make a fully informed decision. Be transparent and never lie as it will come back to haunt you. If things go to court, misrepresentations could undermine the strength of your argument.
  3. Each person should understand their rights and obligations under an agreement and how it will affect their life, both now and in the future.
  4. Regularly review the agreement when there are significant changes in circumstances. Recently agreed upon agreements are more likely to be enforced by the courts.
  5. Get independent legal advice if you are unsure about the meaning or consequences of anything set out in the agreement.

Contact the Family Lawyers at Meridian Law Group in Vancouver for Assistance with Domestic Agreements

Family law agreements serve as invaluable tools for individuals and couples navigating the complexities of family-related legal matters. They promote stability, protect rights, and provide a structured framework for resolving disputes and making important decisions. Whether you are considering a cohabitation agreement prior to marriage, a separation agreement after parting ways, or any other type of family law agreement, consulting with an experienced family lawyer is crucial. At Meridian Law Group, our experienced family law lawyers will ensure that your agreements are legally sound, fair, and tailored to your unique situation, ultimately helping you find resolution and peace in challenging times.

For more information regarding family law agreements or other family law concerns, contact Meridian Law Group by phone at (604) 687-2277 or contact us online.