What are the various domestic contracts?

Here in Ontario, couples have a great deal of latitude about the way they want to structure their domestic lives both during their time together and when they split up. Couples are even free to draft agreements prior to a marriage of domestic arrangement or after it has begun.

When there is no marriage but a common-law arrangement, these agreements are referred to as cohabitation agreements. When the parties are married, they are referred to as marriage contracts, and both are considered to be domestic contracts.

In both cohabitation agreements and marriage contracts, the parties may agree to specific arrangements that differ from typical family law rules regarding spousal support and property division. However, these agreements or contracts may not stipulate the terms of parenting plans if or when relationships end, who must pay child support or the amount or which parent will receive primary custody of the children. The time for deciding these important issues affecting the children is when the decision is made for the parties to split.

Separation agreements are domestic contracts between spouses who are in the process of separating. These agreements spell out the custodial arrangements for the kids and can also delve into issues of spousal support and property division.

In order for these domestic contracts to be able to be legally enforced, both parties have to sign in the presence of a witness, who then signs it as well. Each party has to provide true and detailed financial statements that accurately reflect their situation.

Both parties should consult their own lawyer prior to agreeing to sign any type of domestic contracts.

Source: Community Legal Education Ontario, “Domestic contracts,” accessed May 13, 2016

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