In Ontario, there are two main types of domestic contracts related to marriage and cohabitation, both of which are governed by the Family Law Act.
Marriage contract — This is a contract between two people who are married or who intend to marry each other. (This is often called an antenuptial agreement, a premarital agreement, or simply a “prenup” (or “prenupt”)
Cohabitation agreement — This is a contract between two people who live together or intend to live together but are not legally married.
In these documents, the parties agree to their rights and obligations both during the marriage (or cohabitation) and upon their separation or death.
In drafting your contract, AGB’s Ottawa team of highly trained family lawyers will work to protect your rights and reduce your risk while making sure you understand your obligations.
Like any contract, marriage contracts and cohabitation agreements must be in writing, witnessed and signed by both parties to be valid.
While an AGB family lawyer in Ottawa can provide more detail about what can be included in these contracts, they usually cover
ownership or division of property;
how the children will be educated; and
other matters relating to the settlement of affairs.
Marriage contracts and cohabitation agreements aren’t set in stone
As with any contract, a court can set aside any or all provisions under certain circumstances. To list just a few examples, this may occur if
the contract fails to meet the Federal Child Support Guidelines;
the contract is not in the best interests of the children;
the contract limits a spouse’s or partner’s legal rights to the children or to other aspects of the matrimonial home;
one party fails to disclose certain financial information; or
the court determines one party failed to understand the nature or consequences of the agreement.
A prenuptial agreement—which may be called an antenuptial agreement, a premarital agreement, or simply a “prenup” (or “prenupt”)—is another form of contract between two people. These contracts are written, witnessed and signed prior to marriage or a civil union.
As with other contracts, the content can vary, but they often include provisions for the division of property, spousal support and conditions of guardianship. Further, they may call for the forfeiture of assets as a result of divorce on specific grounds, such as adultery.