Many couples choose not to marry and instead become a common law couple. They may believe that by not getting married, their property, finances, and belongings will be kept separate and apart in case the relationship breaks down. What many British Columbians do not realize is that your property rights in a common law relationship are the same as a legally married couple. Therefore, if the relationship breaks down, the common law couple will be treated as if they were married. So what does this mean anyway? A couple is considered to be in a legal common law relationship after living together for two years. At that point, each partner has a valid legal interest in one another’s property, regardless of how much each partner has been contributing to the property. It does not matter whose name the property is registered in.
In most cases, real estate is a couples’ greatest asset. Therefore, when buying a home, it is important to protect yourself and your property from the get go. One effective way of doing this is to enter into a cohabitation agreement with your partner. There are four situations in particular where a cohabitation would be a good idea:
1) You have been living in your home, and your partner is planning to move in;
2) You and your partner are planning to purchase a home together and would like to ensure that if the relationship breaks down, you have a plan of action for the future;
3) You and your partner are already living together and have decided that you would like to enter into an agreement;
4) You and your partner are legally married and wish to opt out of the Family Law Act and create an agreement of your own.
A cohabitation agreement is a written agreement between the parties where couples, common law or married, can outline their own intentions and decisions as to how they would like things to unfold in case they break up. For example, couples can create terms outlining how they will share in the equity of the home, whether or not the home will be sold, who, if anyone, will remain living in the home etc. Dealing with these kinds of details before hand can significantly reduce the headache and hassle which usually accompanies separation. In addition, cohabitation agreements can set out terms during the relationship. For example, couples can agree on items such as who will pay for what, responsibilities to the family home, responsibilities to children and even pets, etc. Couples wanting some great degree of certainty and structure in their relationship may often use the cohabitation agreement as a tool for setting out such terms.
If you or your partner are planning to or have already started living together, you should consider signing a cohabitation agreement. For more details, please feel free to contact Nida Skrijelj of Segev Homenick LLP at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 604-629-5400. For more information about Segev Homenick LLP, please visit us at www.Segev.ca .