Ask the Hammer

More and more we see couples choosing to live together without getting married. They do this for many different reasons but one reason for sure is because they believe they don’t want to have the shackles of marriage and they don’t want to have to get a divorce if they split up.

The latter, while true, does not mean couples are spared from duking it out in a courtroom after they end their relationship. What is certain is that many couples believe a great many things about their rights and obligations which are but myths which lead some into a false sense of security be they men or women.

Women, in Quebec, for some reason, continue to believe, despite all media reports on the topic to the contrary, that they are entitled to alimentary support upon splitting up. This is even more of a shock to them when the break up happens 10, 20 and 30 years down the road.

Men, on the other hand, tend to believe that they have absolutely no financial obligations towards their mate, which in many cases, amounts only to utopic thinking.

So, can you answer correctly the following questions (no cheating with Google please!)

1.  You are living together in a house owned solely by one of you. Can your partner sell the house without notifying you?

2.  You and your partner had Wills drawn up leaving each other 100% of your respective Estates. Is your partner obliged to advise you if the Will is modified and/or if the percentage left to you is reduced or annulled?

3.  Your partner writes out and signs a document at home, giving you a $50,000.00 gift, which has yet to be paid. You split up. Are you entitled to claim this “gift”?

4.  You and you partner buy a house/condo and it is registered in both your names, without any further details. You put in $100,000.00 more than your partner at the time the purchase was made.

You split. The house is listed and sold. Are you entitled to receive back the extra $100,000.00 BEFORE dividing the remaining proceeds 50/50?

If you answered, yes; no; no; no, then perhaps you don’t need to read on. But, if you missed any answers, you may need to rethink your decision to cohabitate AND you need to get legal advice before the movers arrive and have drawn up a Cohabitation Contract (C.C. hereafter).

You should not look upon having such a contract as unromantic or as a sign of mistrust between you. You don’t die simply because you sign a Will, and you won’t split up simply because you sign a C.C..

But you may avoid a lot of heartache, fights and court battles if you do have such a contract drawn up. It can be done before or after you move in together, but sooner is usually better than later. Of course at the moment stats are not good.

As approximately 54% of unmarried couples in Quebec do split up this is all the more reason to enter into a Cohabitation Contract.

AND Non-married couples, as I have always been saying on radio, have more latitude in what the clauses of a contract can cover than married couples.

Yet eighty percent (80%) of couples don’t have contracts (be they married or simply living together), but as earlier stated, 54% of those simply living together will split up; and 25% of those couples already have children from a previous union and often those children live full-time or part-time with the couple.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of women between 15 to 34 years of age live in non-married unions. (Stats are based on a 2013 Notarial study)

So people, you need to think seriously before moving in and get advice on all issues that could (and most likely will) arise when you  relationship ends.

Knowledge is power, so why not be powerful?

Me. Hammerschmid has practiced Family Law since 1982; Senior Partner at Hammerschmid & Associates; founding & current member of Family Law Association of Quebec (past Secretary for 28 years). Inquiries treated confidentially: 514-846-1013 or [email protected] © 2016 Linda Hammerschmid