Despite best intentions, approximately half of all marriages and common-law relationships end in divorce or separation. For this reason, you may wish to protect your rights in the event you and your spouse part ways. As a family and divorce lawyer in Midtown Toronto, I have experience drafting marriage contracts, cohabitation and prenuptial agreements, and separation agreements as well as preparing applications for divorce.
Marriage contracts – also known as prenuptial agreements or prenups – outline what happens to each partner’s assets and finances in the event the marriage breaks down. The terms of such contracts must be substantially fair to both parties and negotiations must not be conducted under pressure or with haste.
Full financial disclosure from both parties is required to ensure that a marriage contract is legally enforceable. This is a time-consuming task, so if you are considering drafting an agreement, I highly recommend you begin doing so at least six months ahead of your intended marriage date.
A cohabitation agreement is a contract that outlines your rights and obligations in the event your common law relationship ends. The financial protection provided by this type of agreement is important to non-married couples as the property division provisions of Ontario’s Family Law Act do not apply to unmarried spouses.
Should you and your common law partner eventually marry, your cohabitation agreement can become a valid marriage contract. It is worth noting that even without a cohabitation agreement, you may, as a common law partner, be entitled to spousal support and child support on the breakdown of the relationship.
Separation agreements are intended for those who have recently separated or are on the verge of doing so. They typically outline child custody terms,parenting schedules, property division and spousal support.
Even when both parties involved have the same vision, separation agreements can take significant time to draft as each spouse has to provide a detailed and complete statement of their financial situation along with supporting documentation. An evaluation on the matrimonial home and other assets, such as family businesses, may also be required.
Unlike a separation agreement, a divorce must be granted by the Court and only relates to legal status. To be granted a divorce, you and your spouse must have lived separate and apart for at least one year and believe that there is no reasonable chance you will get back together.
If you have children, the court must be satisfied that suitable arrangements are in place for their care and support before granting you a divorce.
I’ll guide you through the process gently and compassionately, while remaining focused on ensuring the best outcome for you in the event of a separation.