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Tips for discussing a cohabitation agreement

Living with someone and being in a committed relationship does not always mean that two people will get married. People across Canada live with their partner before marriage, and many choose never to marry.

While these arrangements can work very well, they are like any other relationship in that they could end. Because of this, couples may want to discuss how to address the legalities such a situation. One way to do this is to create a cohabitation agreement.

Bringing up the topic

Discussing the end of a relationship while you are still very much in one can be uncomfortable. People often want to believe that they will never break up or separate.

However, talking about the potential end of a relationship does not mean that it will happen, nor is it an indication that anyone has reservations about the commitment. Keep this in mind and take the approach of hoping for the best but planning for the worst.

Determining how it can protect you

A cohabitation agreement can protect various things in various ways. For instance, if your main concern is economic stability after a breakup, you might consider including directions for partner support. You can also address how to divide property and property ownership.

A cohabitation agreement can also help you work out thorny issues like who will keep a pet or what obligations a non-biological parent will or will not have with regard to a partner's child.

Understand, though, that a cohabitation agreement is not the tool for deciding child custody or child support issues.

Making it enforceable

Formal documentation may not seem important to cohabitating couples, but it is crucial when it comes to their cohabitation agreements. If you have an agreement, but you do not have it in writing and signed, it can be unenforceable. An agreement can also be invalid if one of you fails to completely and accurately disclose financial information, if it is grossly unfair, or if one of you was forced to sign it.

In other words, having an agreement can be of no value if you do not document it properly. Because of this, it can be wise to have a lawyer assist with this process.

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