Family law agreements are an important consideration for spouses and parents. They are effective tools in resolving existing disputes and in avoiding potential disputes from arising in the future. Family law agreements can be flexible and based on particular circumstances and needs. Often, they are considered more cost effective compared to seeking an order through a legal proceeding in court.

The most common types of family law agreements are:

  • Marriage agreements
  • Cohabitation agreements
  • Separation agreements
  • Parenting agreements

Marriage Agreements


What is a marriage agreement?

Marriage agreements are created by couples either before or shortly after they are legally married. Generally, they are intended to address future issues that may occur during the marriage or in the event the marriage breaks down.

When are marriage agreements helpful?

Marriage agreements are useful in certain circumstances where:

  • One or both spouses have a substantial amount of property and assets at the time of the marriage
  • One or both spouses have a substantial amount of debt at the time of the marriage
  • One or both spouses anticipate receiving an inheritance, gift, settlement or court award at a later date
  • One or both spouses have children from a previous relationship

The spouses wish to address how the division of assets and debt will be dealt with in the event of a future separation or divorce

Marriage agreements can address a number of potential issues such as:

  • How the spouses will own property acquired during the marriage
  • How property and debt are to be divided in the event of separation or divorce
  • How household expenses will be paid for during the marriage by each spouse separately or jointly
  • How or whether the spouses will share the value or the cost of property purchased during the marriage
  • Whether spousal support will be payable if the relationship breaks down including the amount payable and the time period it is payable for

The Family Law Act does not allow marriage agreements entered into before marriage to include any agreements on parental responsibilities, parenting time or child support.

Cohabitation Agreements


What is a cohabitation agreement?

Cohabitation agreements are entered into by unmarried common law couples who are either planning to live together or who are already living together. These agreements are different from marriage agreements in that the spouses are not married.

When are cohabitation agreements helpful?

One of the most common reasons why spouses enter into a cohabitation agreement is to protect their property and income going into the relationship in the event that it ends. They are also intended to address potential issues that may arise when the couple is living together such as household and financial management and responsibilities, as well as what may happen in the future if the relationship ends.

Separation Agreements


What is a separation agreement?

Separation agreements are created after a marriage or common law relationship has broken down and ended. Generally, they are considered a more cost effective way of resolving family law matters as opposed to going through the court process. This all depends, however, on the willingness and the ability of the spouses to work together to reach an agreement on potentially contentious issues.

When are separation agreements helpful?

Separation agreements often deal with a variety of issues that arise from the breakdown of a marriage or common law relationship including:

  • Division of debt and property
  • Guardianship, parenting responsibilities, parenting time
  • Spousal support
  • Child support

In order to have a valid separation agreement, both spouses are required to obtain independent legal advice on how the agreement affects their legal rights and what other options are available to them should they not wish to enter into a separation agreement.

Parenting Agreements


What is a parenting agreement?

Parenting agreements ensure that the needs of children are met after their parents separate or divorce. They can address a variety of different situations involving the children such as:

  • Where the children will live
  • Parenting time schedules
  • Child support including the amount and the time period in which it is payable
  • How the parents will make decisions regarding their children’s care on a day to day basis, as well as in relation to major decisions

Are parenting agreements legally enforceable?

To be legally enforceable, parenting agreements must be filed with the court.

Can you change a parenting agreement?

Parenting agreements may need to be varied or changed when there is a change of circumstances regarding what is in the best interests of the children since the original agreement was made. Examples of reasons for varying or changing a parenting agreement include:

  • Where the old parenting schedule is no longer convenient
  • When one parent has relocated with or without the child
  • When the child wishes to see the visiting parent less or more often
  • Where one parent is not meeting his/her obligations such as being late or canceling visits frequently