Marriage Contracts

Everyone is familiar with the personal and cultural aspects of getting married, but some don’t think about the fact that getting married also affects your legal rights.

The law in Ontario treats marriage as an equal economic partnership, and if a marriage ends, the laws related to division of property will apply to equalize the value of property that the two spouses have accumulated during the relationship. Marriage can also give rise to other financial obligations such as spousal support.

If you are getting married and you do not wish these laws to apply to you, you and your spouse can make alternative arrangements in a marriage contract. When properly prepared after the exchange of all relevant financial information, a marriage contract is a legally binding agreement that can set out exactly how you and your spouse will divide your property if the marriage ends. It can also set out any agreement that you have reached about spousal support, and about the education and religious upbringing of your children.

There are certain things you cannot do in a marriage contract. For example, you cannot include arrangements for custody and access, because decisions about children’s care must always be made based on what’s in the child’s best interests at the applicable time. For that reason, they cannot be made in advance.

A marriage contract may be signed before a marriage, or after the marriage has already taken place.

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