Do I Need a Prenup? Cohabitation and Marriage Agreements in British Columbia

By Monica McParland
Categories: Blog, Family Law

You don’t need to be Gwyneth Paltrow or Brad Pitt to benefit from a “prenup”. A prenup, or what lawyers call a Cohabitation Agreement, is an agreement that you and your partner make before you move in together, or while you are living together, which addresses several important decisions both during the course of your relationship and in the event of a relationship breakdown. Similarly, a Marriage Agreement is an agreement that you and your partner make in anticipation of getting married, although it can also be made at any point during the course of your marriage.

Do you really need one? If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, chances are you may need a Cohabitation or Marriage Agreement to properly protect your interests:

  1. Are you wealthier than your partner? An agreement can ensure they are marrying you for who you are and not your bank account;
  2. Do you earn more than your partner? An agreement can establish in advance the parties’ expectations regarding entitlement, quantum and duration of spousal support in the event the relationship breaks down;
  3. Do you have children from a previous relationship? An agreement can establish who will make the important parenting decisions and who is responsible for supporting those children;
  4. Is your partner coming into the relationship with a significant debt load? An agreement can account for those debts and record the parties’ intentions regarding future debts that may be incurred;
  5. Do you own part of a business? An agreement can establish how that interest is to be shared in the event of a breakdown in the relationship, and this can minimize disruption to the business;
  6. Does one party plan to quit their career in order to stay home and raise children? An agreement can memorialize the parties’ intention regarding the consequences of making that sacrifice;
  7. Have you received a significant inheritance? An agreement can protect your estate plan.

Cohabitation and Marriage Agreements are complex legal documents which should be drafted by a properly trained and experienced lawyer. When drafted correctly and carefully they are enforceable and can protect a party from costly litigation. These Agreements, however, may be set aside if one party has failed to disclose significant assets or debts or if either party failed to understand the nature or consequences of the agreement or on the basis of principles of contract law or unconscionably.

While parties entering into a relationship hope that the relationship will last forever, a Cohabitation Agreement or Marriage Agreement is like an insurance plan: you hope you never need it but if you do, you will be happy to have it.

For assistance in drafting a Cohabitation Agreement or a Marriage Agreement, please contact Monica McParland at 250-869-1120 or