Q. We purchased our home in 2007 and at the time, my partner was not working and had limited resources to contribute to the downpayment or the ongoing household expenses.

We were counselled by our real estate lawyer that we might want to consider a co-habitation agreement.

We seriously considered this document but felt the added costs were prohibitive considering we were already stretching our budget to make the down payment and to cover closing costs. 

Now, five years later, we are re-financing our mortgage and the issue has come up again.

Luckily, our finances have changed and my partner is on much more stable footing and is contributing on an equal basis.

What do you think we should do on a going-forward basis?

A. As one might say, ‘you dodged that bullet.’

The use of co-habitation agreements is most applicable and important when there is a difference between the contribution of the parties that purchase a property together. 

This is even more significant when you are common law partners because there are less stringent property division rules (although this is a moving case by case target). 

I think the approach you should take at this time is to attempt to document the historical contributions and both parties acknowledge that if the relationship were to break down in the future that there would be some form of equalization based upon the numbers.

In terms of co-habitation agreements, and in more general terms relationships; although we don’t want to over-analyze, over-document and suck the life out of exciting and often romantic events, one should always keep and eye on the ‘what if’s’ because your story could easily be one of conflict rather than congratulations.

Jeffrey Cowan is the principal of Cowan Law and can be reached by email at jeff@cowanlaw.ca.

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