Marriage agreements or marital agreements are domestic contracts that people use to protect their interests when entering into, further defining, or ending a spousal relationship.
These contracts outline each partner’s rights and responsibilities in and for the duration of the relationship, and importantly, establish their intentions for dealing with such issues and obligations as property division and spousal support in the event that the relationship fails.
While couples throughout British Columbia often draw up marriage agreements willingly and collaboratively (even in separation and divorce), it is crucial that each spouse approach the process with their own lawyer representing their individual interests and helping them understand their rights, responsibilities and the consequences of entering into such a contract.
At Spectrum Law in Vancouver, we support our clients unwaveringly throughout the negotiation, drafting and signing of all types of marital agreements.
Depending on a couple’s particular circumstances, they might explore options for one of the following types of marital agreements:
Indeed, prenups, cohabitation agreements and separation agreements provide individuals at different stages of a relationship with critical protection and control over the legal aspects of a marriage. Consider the following objectives of many marital agreements:
In order for a marital agreement to be enforceable, it must meet the following requirements:
- It must be in writing
- It must be signed by each spouse in the presence of a witness
- Each party must be identified clearly in the document and be of sound mind when signing
Additionally, a marriage agreement could be successfully challenged in court if there is evidence that its terms are significantly unfair, that one or both parties knowingly withheld information that should have been disclosed in the drafting process, or that one party was unduly pressured to agree to and sign the document.
The best way to avoid a legal challenge to a marital agreement is for both spouses to consult legal professionals independently. This way, throughout all negotiations, they each have a qualified advocate for their own individual needs and interests.
It is common for a couple’s circumstances to change over the course of a relationship or in the years after it ends. For example, one or both of their jobs or incomes could change drastically, they could sell or acquire property, children could be added to the family or grow into adulthood, or one or both exes could eventually remarry.
Whenever significant changes occur, it is perfectly legal and a good idea to amend an existing marital agreement to reflect those changes.
If the couple is still married or cohabitating and can agree on the changes needed, they can consult their respective lawyers to draw up an addendum agreement, which would then have to be signed in front of witnesses like the original agreement.
If there is conflict over whether changes should be made, the matter may require further legal expertise, for which their lawyers could continue to represent their interests and advocate toward their goals.
Similarly, spouses (or exes) can completely end a marriage agreement at any time if they agree to do so. Again, cancelation of the contract must be in writing and signed before witnesses.
Consider the following advice if you are getting ready to draft a prenuptial agreement, cohabitation agreement or separation agreement with your partner:
- Get your own lawyer – Both you and your spouse (or ex) should retain independent legal counsel to help best meet your individual needs
- Be honest – Disclose all details about your finances and other assets fully
- Be fair – If the terms are too demanding or too unbalanced toward one partner, the court may not accept the contract (even if you both agree)
- Allow ample time – Especially for prenups, you must provide plenty of time for the proper negotiations and considerations to take place. A marriage agreement signed less than 24 hours before the wedding could be legally challenged
Marriage agreements are useful tools that can save you time, money and anguish when executed properly. The lawyers at Spectrum Family Law in Vancouver can support goals and guard your interests throughout the process.
To schedule a consultation with a marriage agreement lawyer, contact us online or call (778) 452-0221. We look forward to working with you.