Best Prenup Cohabitation Agreement Lawyers understand people in a new committed relationship wonder whether it makes sense to plan for the future in the good times in case their relationship does not work out. Tal Wolf, our Vancouver based senior marriage agreement lawyer explains the pros and cons of prenuptial and marriage agreements.
Should I Pursue a Prenup or Cohabitation Agreement?
As your relationship gets more serious either because you’re going to get married, or move-in together, it’s normal to start having apprehensions about what the conflict might look like in the event of a relationship breakdown. You’ve likely heard many stories about awful divorce battles and the like….but what if you could control that process? What if you could control the outcome? Well, in many ways, you can through a Marriage Agreement (aka pre-nuptual agreement, or “prenup”), or a cohabitation agreement, which is largely the same thing, just used by couples before or without getting married. Bring up the topic of a prenup well before the wedding day and approach the topic with sensitivity says Tal Wolf.
Don’t wait until the last minute when it may be too late. Call the British Columbia Marriage Agreement and Cohabitation Agreement Lawyers at MacLean Family Law 1 877 602 9900 now if you are even months away from “taking the plunge” with your partner. The Best Prenup Cohabitation Agreement Lawyers will guide you.
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People who have previously been through a conflicted divorce would be well-familiar with the possible conflict, stress, strain, and tension, that accompany non-harmonious fallout from relationships. A prenuptial agreement can help you to avoid many potential conflicts before they start, by addressing the issues of property division and spousal support (aka alimony) on the front end. With a well-drafted marriage agreement, you can also save money that you may later need to spend on a lawyer because while there may be lingering disputes about language interpretation, or modifications require for fairness, large swaths of other issues may already be spoken for.
If you are entering a marriage with substantial property ownership, especially income producing property, you likely are going to want to control how that property will be dealt with through a creative “settlement” structure, and one that you have knowledge of (and can plan around) far in advance. Business owners, perhaps more so than anyone, will want to ensure that the business and its income remains their separate property, and that the plan for potential division will be such that the business can continue to operate and even thrive. Again, it’s all about clarity and control, for both parties. You may find that, contrary to popular believe, these factors actually can inject a subconscious “stability” into the marriage, by removing the “excitement” of the new and the unknown when parties are fighting.
There may be odd categories of property, including sentimental items (and pets), that parties would of which parties may want to ensure they will have full custody in case of separation. These items are easily dealt with in a prenuptial agreement, or a cohabitation agreement.
Finally, since financial issues are a primary source of strain in many failing marriages, a prenuptial agreement provides a process whereby there is full disclosure of financials up-front. This necessarily helps the future spouses “get on the same page” regarding their finances right at the outset. It could be argued that the divorce rate would be lower if every couple sat down together prior to marriage and disclosed assets, debts, and income, and planned their financial futures together. Cohabitation agreements or prenups force the parties to ask hard questions at the beginning (and even gives them a good excuse for doing so!).
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There’s no avoiding it, prenuptial agreements are not romantic. They are not fun. Sitting down and discussing how to address issues in the event of separation or divorce before you are even married is not on anyone’s list of favorite pre-wedding rituals. If you believe discussing the topic with your future spouse may have a negative impact on the relationship, then a prenuptial agreement is probably not for you. It may, frankly, take a certain degree of business-mindedness on the part of both sides in order for the dialogue to take place in a healthy way.
Also, provincial law may provide enough protection for you in the event of separation or divorce anyway. The BC Family Law Act clearly defines what is considered “family property” and what is considered “excluded property” in the event of a separation, and courts are tasked with fairly and equitably distributing all family assets and debts. There are also statutes (and a wide body of caselaw) directly addressing how the entitlement to spousal support is to be assessed and determined, and of course child support. Therefore, even without a marriage agreement you may be surprised to learn how closely you would end up, anyways, to the result you would have wanted.
Next, prenuptial agreements cannot address child custody and child support. The courts will always retain jurisdiction to make child custody determinations, and child support in British Columbia are arranged in accordance with Part 4 of the BC Family Law Act – which in essence is concerned with the best interests of the child, and only with that – and with the Federal Child Support Guidelines of Canada. You cannot alter your own (or the other party’s) rights under these laws by agreement, the net result being that while you might succeed in avoiding conflict over property and alimony through a prenup, you could still end up having to deal with a stressful custody dispute and/or battle over what we call Guideline Incomes, child support and division of certain child expenses such as educational, medical, daycare, and a few others.
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Finally, prenuptial agreements or cohabitation agreements may not properly address unanticipated changed circumstances, which may have detrimental consequences to one or the other party. Also, if the agreement does not clearly and explicitly address how conflicts are to be resolved, the fact of the agreement itself may create more confusion down the line including a whole additional component to your court case that the lawyers would have to deal with or fight over, costing significant fees.
Every case is different. Whether or not to foray into the prenup topic with your partner, or to pursue a full-blown written contract is not a “one size fits all” question.
Call the Prenup and Cohabitation Agreement Lawyers at MacLean Family Law 1 877 602 9900 to find out if your relationship is a good candidate for this process, and to see how you can make the most of this powerful tool. Planning ahead can save thousands if not hundreds of tousands.