A Framework for the Future

At first blush, it may seem strange to talk about discussing what happens when you break up as you are contemplating getting married or moving in together. However, agreeing in advance on how to handle life's contingencies prompts couples to have important conversations about financial expectations that they should have before they begin to live together. Establishing the framework for managing major issues before they occur supports couples to avoid future conflict that could jeopardize their relationship, as well as helps to alleviate anxiety and reduce conflict if separation occurs.

The Family Law Act applies to unmarried spouses (formerly called common-law spouses) who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years, and to couples who have lived together for less than two years but have a child together.

Unmarried spouses may sign a cohabitation agreement to outline how they would like to deal with any of the following during their relationship and if the relationship ends:

  • Sharing housing and household expenses
  • Acquiring assets
  • Division of assets upon separation
  • Having children
  • Spousal support upon separation
  • Child support upon separation
  • Financial responsibilities for children from previous relationships

The cohabitation agreement may be made in contemplation of marriage at some future date. It automatically becomes a marriage agreement upon marriage.

Spouses who are already married or are getting married shortly may wish to enter into a marriage agreement, which can address the same matters as a cohabitation agreement.

The Family Law Act provides a framework for the resolution of issues that may arise upon separation, including:

  • Division of property and debts
  • Guardianship of children
  • Parenting responsibilities
  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  • Mobility
  • Division of pensions

The Family Law Act applies to spouses who are married or have been living in a marriage-like relationship for at least two years. Certain aspects of the legislation apply if a couple have lived together less than two years when they have a child.

Spouses may decide to opt out of certain provisions of the Family Law Act . They can decide exactly how they wish their affairs to be organized if they separate. This often applies to spouses coming from previous relationships with children or with significant property.

Cohabitation agreements and marriage agreements allow spouses to identify and document their circumstances, the value of their property, and their intentions and expectations during the relationship or the marriage, and if the relationship ends.

Collaborative lawyers work together with spouses to create fair and enduring agreements, specifically tailored to the needs and circumstances of each family. Traditionally, the lawyer for the spouse with the greater assets that the wealthier spouse wants to “protect” drafts an agreement that, to the other spouse, may appear unfair and show a lack of trust — which would then make it likely to create ill will and increase stress. However, negotiating these agreements together, when a couple works with Collaborative lawyers, supports and strengthens the relationship.

Questions about Collaborative Divorce?

Contact us today to schedule an appointment. We are easily reached by phone at 604-866-5949. You can also send us your questions via email, through our eform.

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Your Team


Collaborative Divorce Network




Shelley Behr

Divorce Coach/Child Specialist


Garth Edwards



Robert W. Mostar



Deirdre Severide



Danny Zack


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