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Marriage Contracts

January 4th, 2014 — Family

Ontario family laws provide certain legal rights to you and your spouse once you are married.  These include the following:

  • -the value of the property you acquired during the marriage will be divided in half
  • -the increase in the value of the property you brought into the marriage will be divided in half (with some exceptions)
  • -both husband and wife have an equal right to stay in the matrimonial home
  • -you may be entitled to financial support from your spouse for you and your children upon the end of a marriage
  • -upon marriage, your existing will is revoked
  • -etc.

If you don’t want family law to apply to your marriage, then a couple can arrange to have a marriage contract and opt out of Ontario’s Family Law Act.  A marriage contract is a legal document and can be drafted so that family laws are not applicable to your marriage.  You will need to consult a lawyer and typically, exchange financial information.   The marriage contract can stipulate what you expect from each other during the marriage, the fact that you will not share property or share property in a different manner than what is specified under the law.

Marriage contracts may include the following clauses:

  • -how you will divide your property, possessions and matrimonial home.  A marriage contract lets you divide property and possessions how you wish and you do not have to divide everything equally.
  • -support obligations at the end of the marriage
  • -both parties can also specify the educational and religious upbringing of children even if they are not yet born
  • -If a personal possession increases in value during the marriage which you brought into the marriage, your marriage contract can specify that  any increase in value will not be shared with your spouse (as you get to keep your personal property that you brought into the marriage after the marriage ends).
  • -etc.

Generally speaking, a marriage contract can not include the following:

  • -custody and access arrangements
  • -you cannot change the law that each spouse has an equal right to live in the home for a certain period
  • – provide a different treatment of the matrimonial home such as claiming a deduction from the calculation of net family property for the spouse that owned the matrimonial home on the date of marriage
  • – a marriage contract can provide that the matrimonial home is excluded from the calculation of property sharing

A marriage contract can be drafted even after you are already married.