Breaking Up is Hard to Do....Don't Make it Harder Than it Has To Be

Co-habitation agreement

The old song “Breaking up is hard to do” accurately summarizes what is a nearly universal experience. Almost everyone has gone through a tough break up at one time or another.  And whether you are married or not, it can be a truly awful time. The last thing anyone needs in the middle of a break-up is to have the conflict made worse by uncertainty about custody arrangements and how to divide your property. During a break-up, emotions are often all over the place and it’s easy to make bad decisions that have a lasting impact.

Many people are surprised to learn that people in common-law relationships do not have all the same legal rights and obligations as married couples. People who are living together in a marriage-like relationship may be considered to be common law partners after a certain amount of time. Depending on the province and the applicable law, they may have to live together for one, two, or even three years. In Nova Scotia, a couple must live together for at least two years in order to be considered common-law under the Maintenance and Custody Act (the law that governs elements of common law relationships.)

When a legal marriage ends, the law presumes that the couple will split all their marital property (houses, cars, bank accounts, pensions, etc.) equally or 50/50. But when common law spouses break up, there is no presumption of a 50/50 split. Take the family home for example, in situations where only one person has legal title to the house, the other person may have no claim to it even if they were contributing to the mortgage. 

If you are in a common-law relationship, a useful tool to consider is a cohabitation agreement. Think of it as a prenuptial agreement for non-married couples. A cohabitation agreement allows you to determine in advance how you would divide your property in the event of a break-up. There are several advantages to having a cohabitation agreement with your spouse. It is easier to agree on terms while the relationship is going well, you are less likely to feel trapped in a bad relationship for economic reasons, it reduces the stress on parents and kids in the event of a break up, and last but certainly not least, spending a little bit of money up front can save you a whole lot of money and heartache trying to work out a deal after the break up.

Two of the biggest barriers to getting a cohabitation agreement are the feeling that it is un-romantic, and that it suggests you are planning to break up eventually. Everyone hopes their relationship will make it to the happily-ever-after, but life is unpredictable. A cohabitation agreement can help you take control of your future and give you peace of mind in the meantime.

If you have any questions about cohabitation agreement you can call us at (902) 826-3070 or email us at to set up a meeting with one of our lawyers at our Tantallon law firm. You can also schedule a no commitment Issue Review Consult for $100+HST where you have the opportunity to explain your situation to a lawyer and get basic advice before deciding whether or not you'd like to retain us.  

- Dianna M. Rievaj - Managing Lawyer

The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. Nothing contained on this blog is legal advice or constitutes a legal opinion. While it is our goal to provide information which is current, legislative changes and court decisions, among other matters, may result in some information no longer being current or accurate. You should consult a lawyer before relying on any information. The views expressed herein by individual contributing lawyers posting entries to the blog are solely those of the authors and should not necessarily be attributed to or considered representative of the firm of Highlander Law Group Lawyers