If you're facing a sensitive family law concern, you'll want to have someone who can stay calm and level-headed to act on your behalf. Whether you're interested in creating a cohabitation agreement before moving in with your partner or want to learn more about your options for ending your relationship, the Ontario family law lawyers at Chodola Reynolds Binder can advise you about your legal rights.

Cohabitation Agreements

In Ontario, many people living in a common-law relationship believe they have the same legal rights and obligations as married spouses. This is not the case. To protect yourself if your relationship ends, you must understand the distinctions the law makes between married spouses and cohabitating partners. 

Issues Covered by a Cohabitation Agreement

  • Division of the couple's assets
  • Spousal support
  • Child custody
  • Child visitation

Marriage Contracts

A marriage contract is also called a pre-nuptial agreement. It is entered into between two people who intend to marry or are already married. Under Ontario law, a marriage contract may only address specific issues.

Issues Covered by a Marriage Contract

  • Ownership and division of property
  • Spousal support
  • Child support
  • The right to direct the education and moral upbringing of children

Ontario law is quite clear that possession of the matrimonial home, child custody, and access to children may not be included in a marriage contract. 

The couple can't agree in advance which parent would get custody of their children, where the children would live, or what a parenting schedule would look like if they separated. The terms in the marriage contract can discuss how the children will be raised regarding their religious faith and education. It cannot set out which parent will decide about raising them. 

Neither person can agree to give up their rights under Ontario's Family Law Act to equal possession of the matrimonial home in a marriage contract. To clarify, the marriage contract can't specify that if the marriage breaks down, either the husband or the wife will be the one to move out of the property. 

Separation Agreements

A separated couple may not wish to divorce immediately. The couple may want to remain married for religious reasons or ensure one spouse has access to health insurance benefits through the other's employer. Alternatively, they may want to slow down the process before formally ending their marriage. In this situation, a separation agreement ends the relationship without taking the final step. 

Issues Covered by a Separation Agreement

The separation agreement can include specific arrangements regarding the following:

  • Division of property and assets
  • Spousal support
  • Child support
  • Child custody
  • Access to the children

If you and your spouse eventually decide to divorce formally, the terms of the separation agreement would roll over into a divorce agreement. 


Separated spouses don't need to get a divorce if they want to end their relationship. They can enter into a separation agreement and remain married "on paper." If one or both of them wish to remarry, they must formally divorce.

Canadian Application for Divorce

Under Canadian law, there are three grounds for divorce:

  • Marriage breakdown
  • Adultery
  • Cruelty

Marriage breakdown means the couple must remain separated for 12 months or more before filing for divorce. There must be no prospect of reconciliation or resumed cohabitation during this time. 

Adultery is consensual sexual intercourse with someone other than one's spouse. The "wronged spouse" is the only one who can file for divorce based on adultery, which means the person who committed adultery can't file for divorce because they were unfaithful. If adultery can be proved to the Court, a divorce is granted.

Cruelty is the other reason for granting a divorce in Canada. It refers to a level of cruelty that was so severe as to cause deterioration of the other spouse's physical or mental health.  

Speak With an Experienced Ontario Family Law Lawyer

When results matter, you can count on CRB Law to give you effective representation you can trust. Lawyer Michael Drake handles family law concerns for our clients.

Our law firm helps clients in Windsor, Tecumseh, LaSalle, Belle River, Kingsville, Leamington, Chatham-Kent, Sarnia-Lambton, and across Ontario. If you need help, call us at (519) 254-6433 or fill out our online contact form to request a free consultation.