Cohabitation agreements – 7 common questions

Unmarried couple drinking coffee on a sofa comfortable because they have a cohabitation agreement.

Cohabitation Agreements in Nova Scotia – What are they?

Cohabitation agreements function in the same manner as a marriage contract/prenup but for unmarried couples. They are used to govern the relationship of two individuals who plan to live together, protecting them from any potential relationship breakdown. The agreement can set out what will happen with each partner’s property, what will happen with jointly owned property, and whether either party will be entitled to support, etc. 

Do I need any sort of contract to protect myself if I move in with my partner?

While you don’t need a contract to move in with someone, it is advised. After living together for one year, you will be considered a common law spouse. You don’t have to be married to be entitled to an interest in your partner’s property, or even to receive spousal support. Common-law partners can claim spousal support or an interest in their partner’s property in some circumstances. If you have a cohabitation agreement, you and your assets will be protected. The contract allows you to agree on what you expect to happen to your assets, while you are in a good place in your relationship. These are not decisions you want to make in the heat of your relationship breaking down.

Are cohabitation agreements only for common law relationships?

No, you do not need to be a common-law couple to have a cohabitation agreement. Any two people who plan to live together can enter such an agreement.

My boyfriend and I have been living together and are thinking of buying a house. How do I protect myself?

Cohabitation agreements can be modified as changes occur in the lives of the partners. For example, if you go from living in an apartment together to purchasing a house together, the cohabitation agreement can be used to determine what will happen to the house if the relationship breaks down. Your cohabitation agreement can be modified by amendment (which will require a notary/lawyer to make the change), or by drafting a new agreement and signing it in front of a witness.

Do I need a lawyer to write a cohabitation agreement?

While a cohabitation agreement does not have to be made by a lawyer, it is best to use a lawyer. There will be upfront costs, but ensuring that the agreement is legally sound will protect you from potential future costs if a matter must be litigated.

Can my partner and I use the same lawyer for our cohabitation agreement?

Each partner should have the cohabitation agreement reviewed by independent legal counsel prior to signing. This not only ensures the agreement is fair, but also make the agreement more difficult to overturn in the future if one party decides to challenge the validity of the agreement. 

Do cohabitation agreements include what will happen to my children?

If the parties have children, the cohabitation agreement can also set out what will happen if the relationship ends in terms of parenting arrangements, decision-making authority, etc. 

Are you unmarried but sharing assets? 

Contact us today to book a consultation with our family lawyer, Shawn Scott. 

This blog is meant for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for legal advice.