Moving in with a partner, or getting engaged or married, is an exciting time for everyone involved. When a couple is happy and taking the ‘next step’ in their relationship, the last thing they want to think about is the potential for a future breakup. However, as family law lawyers, we know the unfortunate reality. The fact is a number of relationships won’t last forever, and the best thing a couple can do when taking a new step is to give themselves peace of mind by setting out a plan in advance, just in case.

At Boulby Weinberg LLP, our lawyers often work with clients who are happy and in love and simply looking to make a contingency plan, as a person would a Will. Like estate planning, creating an agreement to be used in the event of a breakup may not be something a couple wants to think about. However, doing so when a couple is happy and able to work together can save a great deal of stress in the future. In the best-case scenario, you’ll never have to use it. But in the worst case, you will have given yourselves the gift of making a comprehensive plan at the outset of the relationship.

What Can and Cannot Be Set Out in a Marriage or Cohabitation Agreement?

A domestic contract should effectively and clearly set out the terms to be followed in the event of a breakdown of the relationship in the future. These terms can include issues relating to spousal and child support, the division of property, how to manage the family business, and more. However, there are a number of issues that cannot be decided in advance in a domestic contract.

These include:

  • Parenting plans – The primary consideration when determining parenting time and the right to make parental decisions is the “best interests of the child” at the time the matter is being decided. As a result, the parties will not be bound by advance planning of parenting arrangements in a domestic agreement.
  • Opting out of the federal Child Support Guidelines – The Guidelines exist to ensure a child is provided with adequate support based on the income of each parent as well as the decision-making and parenting time arrangements. A couple cannot choose to ‘opt-out’ of these obligations unless the domestic contract provides for greater support than would normally be required under the Guidelines or an arrangement that benefits the child.
  • Restricting access to the matrimonial homeIn the case of a marriage, both parties have equal rights to access the matrimonial home(s), and this cannot be undone by the terms of a domestic contract. Further, an agreement cannot enable one spouse to unilaterally sell or encumber the home. Note that these restrictions do not apply to common-law couples.
  • Mandating arbitration or mediation over litigation While couples are free to choose their method for resolving matters at the time of separation, a domestic contract cannot mandate alternative dispute resolution methods in advance.

Contact Boulby Weinberg LLP in Toronto for Knowledgeable and Comprehensive Drafting of Domestic Agreements

The family lawyers at Boulby Weinberg LLP have helped many couples create effective and comprehensive marriage and cohabitation agreements. Our breadth of experience with respect to simple and complex financial circumstances and international family matters gives us unique insight into structuring a domestic agreement suited to any situation. Whether your matter is relatively straightforward or involves complex financial assets such as family trusts, business considerations or foreign property, we will ensure your interests are protected in the creation and execution of your domestic agreement.

To arrange a consultation with a reputable and empathetic lawyer at Boulby Weinberg LLP, please complete our confidential online questionnaire, which will provide you with valuable preliminary information tailored to your situation. A representative from our firm will contact you within one business day to discuss your matter further and arrange an initial meeting. To contact our firm without completing the questionnaire, please reach out to us online, or call us at 647-494-0113 ext. 102.