Planning for Living Together – Questions to Contemplate

Unmarried living together – very common these days! Planning for that cohabitation – less common, but probably one of the most important things you can do.  Whether you end up married or not, the law in many jurisdictions provides that once you’ve been living together for a certain period, your division of assets & debts / spousal support obligations / entitlements on separation or death are different than you may expect.  Tying the knot is not the triggering event for the automatic “sharing” any longer!

The typical reason that people come in to have a cohabitation agreement drafted is because they want to contemplate including or excluding certain assets from division if there is a separation or on death.

But, don’t stop there! These questions are just as important:

  1. How often will the agreement be reviewed (4-5 years at least);
  2. Planning life together
    1. Expected roles during the marriage? Work once kids arrive?
    2. Division of household obligations?
    3. Possibility of a move for a job / opportunity? Contemplated?
    4. How will we keep our “spark” alive / fill each other’s “love bucket”?
  3. Finances
    1. Expectations on saving, spending?
    2. Will you budget? Will it be done together?
    3. Bank accounts – joint? separate? Payment of household bills?
    4. Who will manage family finances?
  4. Children
    1. Kids from previous relationship
      1. Discuss step-parenting relationship.
      2. How to provide for them – during relationship, on death, on separation?
    2. Step-parent adoption?
      1. Schedule at your home vs other biological parent’s home?
    3. Do you plan on having children together? Discuss.
  5. Extended family
    1. Time with in-laws – Is this flexible or rigid?
    2. What if a relative wants to move in with you? Contemplated?
  6. Communication
    1. Expectations around communication?
    2. Use of a shared calendar? How much is shared?
    3. Types of decisions to be made together?
    4. Willingness level to work on communication skills / share issues with each other?
    5. System for communicating difficult issues?
    6. Willingness to go to counselling?

This is a non-exhaustive list, but it drives home the point that there are so many things to consider when contemplating a life together.  It’s not all just about how to plan for the division of assets and debts, it’s so much more.  The goal of most relationships who are at the point of living together is “forever”.  If we enter a relationship with intention, contemplating these types of questions above, I suggest that the prospect of separation is reduced significantly.  Communication (or lack thereof) is one of the most common “reasons” that my clients give for their relationship breakdown.  With the above questions, we could be onto something to helping to alleviate that problem!