BACK IN THE COHABIT: The Importance of Cohabitation Agreements

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Posted by heritagelawoffices on Dec 2, 2021 in Blog, Family Law

Have you been living with a significant other for an extended period of time? You may not know it, but you could be living in a common-law living arrangement under the eyes of the law and a cohabitation agreement may help.

This label entitles each member of the relationship to minimal protection in the case of separation and other forms of estrangement.

Relying on these laws is unwise, as the living situation is subject to close examination by a court representative. Also, Alberta common-law rules are quite strict.

If you leave your partner, or if your partner leaves you, the end result may not be what you expect!

Keep reading our guide below about cohabitation agreements and feel free to contact Heritage Law if you have any questions.

What are the Cohabitation Laws in Alberta?

As of 2003, the term “common-law” is technically not used when it comes to Alberta laws. Instead, the current term is “adult interdependent relationships” and the legal rights and responsibilities of these relationships differ depending on your jurisdiction.

This type of relationship exists if two people have signed an Adult Interdependent Partner Agreement, if two people have lived together for three years or more in a relationship, or if two people living in a relationship have a child together.

These laws depend on whether or not the two individuals are living in a “relationship of interdependence” which occurs when they share one another’s lives, are emotionally committed to each other, and function as a domestic unit.

This relationship does not have to be sexual and can be a platonic one between friends or relatives.

This distinction is important since it implies that roommates or family members living together can take advantage of cohabitation agreements to protect their livelihood and assets.

The Adult Interdependent Relationships Act of Alberta is important because it creates a legal relationship between two people who are not married.

An adult interdependent relationship can be terminated if the partners sign a written agreement stating their separation, the partners live separately and apart for more than one year, the partners marry each other, or one partner marries/enters into an adult relationship with someone else.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A Cohabitation Agreement is a notarized document that is signed by both parties (two unmarried people who are living together). It is put in place to provide concrete rights and obligations for each individual in case the relationship cannot be sustained.

These agreements can provide for division of property or wealth as well as alimony (spousal support), forms of child support, and other contingencies. 

In order to create a cohabitation agreement, both parties must sign the agreement in front of a witness as well as be open and honest about their financial situations. There cannot be any threats or pressure when it comes to signing this agreement.

It is recommended that both individuals seek independent legal advice and be represented separately. While you can write your own cohabitation agreement, a lawyer can ensure that your interests are protected and that the document is legally binding.

What Happens If I Don’t Have a Cohabitation Agreement in Alberta?

If you don’t have a cohabitation agreement with your common-law partner, your ex may have a legal claim to some of your shared assets in the event of a break-up. You can also be held responsible for the debt they accrued during your relationship.

When it comes to shared property or assets, these are things you acquired together while in the relationship. With a valid cohabitation agreement, your property is divided according to the specifics of the agreement.

Without a cohabitation agreement, you can agree with your partner on how to divide your assets. However, if you can’t come to an agreement, the issue may have to be taken to court where the law of unjust enrichment will be applied.

The law of unjust enrichment states that one person can not become richer from the contributions that the other person made. 

It’s important to note that child support or child custody issues are not addressed in a cohabitation agreement. These agreements are solely to provide protection when it comes to the division of finances and property.

Do I Need a Cohabitation Agreement?

Cohabitation agreements are not a legal requirement and not everyone needs one. However, if you’re uncertain as to whether or not one is necessary for your relationship, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you over the age of 18?
  • Are you currently in or about to engage in a shared living arrangement?
  • Are you interested in protecting your assets or ensuring that your partner is cared for after your relationship is over?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, you should consider getting a cohabitation agreement!

Other factors can also apply so be sure that you and your partner both receive legal advice.

Is a Cohabitation Agreement Equal to a Prenuptial Agreement?

Many couples expect that cohabitation agreements serve the same purpose as prenuptial agreements due to their similarities.

However, cohabitation agreements only apply to non-married partners living together.

If you are currently protected by a cohabitation agreement and you are planning on getting married, it is in your best interest to update to a prenuptial agreement.

Curious About Cohabitation?

No one wants to think about breaking up while they are in a relationship. However, having a cohabitation agreement is a simple step you can take to protect your property and ensure the separation is as amicable as possible.

So if you are involved in an adult interdependent relationship, what are you waiting for?

Our team at Heritage Law is here if you have any questions about common-law relationships and cohabitation agreements.

Contact us today for a personal consultation with our legal experts. We will explore your needs and customize your agreement – and we can even refer counsel to your partner if necessary.