A marriage or cohabitation agreement is a contract entered into before or during a spousal relationship. They’re like an advance plan designed to minimize potential disputes in the event that the relationship eventually ends. They typically outline expectations regarding financial issues, but may also include matters related to children. Our post this week looks at three factors you should know about the fundamental nature of such contracts.
What Makes A Marriage Or Cohabitation Agreement Valid?
These agreements hold the same legal force as business contracts – such as between company partners, landlords and tenants, or suppliers and customers. For the contract to be enforceable by law, it must meet at least three basic legal criteria. It must be:
- Set down in writing
- Signed by both spouses
- Witnessed by at least one other party
Does The Agreement Have To Be Fair?
So long as both parties obtained legal advice prior to signing and the provisions within the agreement are reasonable, a court will generally respect and enforce a marriage or cohabitation agreement. However, the court has the authority to set aside an agreement if:
- It contains provisions that are obviously unfair to either party
- Either party failed to provide full and honest financial disclosure
- Either party entered the agreement unfairly, such as through coercion
What Matters Are Unenforceable?
A court will not enforce provisions that contravene legislated obligations of spouses toward each other. The court will also refuse to enforce certain matters such as promises to remain childless or to end the marriage by a specific date or time frame.
To ensure that a marriage or cohabitation agreement does its intended job, both parties must ensure that it was properly contemplated, legally valid and enforceable under the law.
The lawyers at Peterson Stark Scott provide independent legal advice to parties who wish to enter marriage or cohabitation agreements before or during a relationship.