Cohabitation Agreements: The Pre-Nup Of Our Generation

As children we are taught to ”share, share, share!” But as adults, especially an adult who has been through a divorce or separation, sharing, you learn, can suck. This is why, before my boyfriend moves in, I’m making him sign a cohabitation agreement.

I used the same lawyer I did for my divorce and the agreement she came up with was about 13 pages long. I didn’t want to share my house, or rather the amount of my house, if I ever sell it. While I was more than happy to share my space, closets, driveway, washrooms, backyard and my fridge, there was no way I was going to ”share” the equity of my house with my boyfriend, if, god-forbid, we break up.

Having a cohabitation agreement in place does not make me a pessimist. It makes me a realist and smart. The laws in Canada are pretty clear-cut. Even if I don’t marry him, which I may, if he lives in my house for a certain number of years (as low as two) or quite frankly, on a regular basis, even if it’s not seven nights a week, he could come after me for half of the house. He could also come after me for spousal support, and even child support, because he has two children. And, no, that is not going to happen.

No matter what love there is in the beginning, someone once said you can see the real person when you break up. I think this is true. I know, personally, women who have had to fight their ex-husbands, spending thousands of dollars on legal fees, even though they’re the ones who purchased the house, made the house a home, and made more money than their spouse. Even when the man was the one who had the affair, they still, under the law, were entitled to half of everything from the time they moved in together. Now, you may ask (as I often do) what kind of man would go after a woman they once loved, knowing it was all her hard work that got the house, or knowing that woman supported them for years (yes, I know, WOMEN DO THIS ALL THE TIME, I’m well aware of that!)? Well, a lot of men, it seems. And why not? Things have changed, right? It’s okay to be a stay-at-home dad, and boast that your wife is a Vice President of a major company. It’s okay for men to change diapers and do the grocery shopping. It’s okay to go after your ex-wife for spousal support! Times have changed! All good, of course, except for the fact that a woman can lose it all, if we only think with our hearts and not our heads.

Do I think my boyfriend would ever come after me for my house and support? The truth is, I’m not a fortune teller. While I’d like to believe he wouldn’t, why wouldn’t he, especially if he’s lived at my home, and made it his and his children’s home, for years? I didn’t ask him if he would ever do that, because what’s the point? I didn’t ask, either, if he would sign a cohabitation agreement. I told him he HAD to sign one, to which he responded, “Okay.” Probably and possibly, this is because we both have had to deal with divorce lawyers and know how long the process can be. I know now, because of our cohabitation agreement, exactly what will happen, and who will get what, if we do break up. And so will he. There won’t be any lawyers involved, or if there are, they’ll see the signed agreement. He will never get any of the house. He can never come after me for child or spousal support.

Likewise, I can never come after him for his business, or spousal support, either, so it’s not one-sided. Because my daughter has a great father, there is also a clause that if I die (you have to cover these things), he cannot sue or ask for custody of her, no matter how much they like each other, just as I can’t his. As much as I love his children, and as much as he may love mine, there are also clauses that state that I’m expected to pay for only the expenses of my child, and he the expenses of his. Pretty much, the agreement makes him a renter (he’ll pay a portion of household expenses, minus the nanny, who I consider my daughter’s nanny, so I’ll pay for that, even if she ends up doing his kids’ laundry on some days).

There is also a clause that he has to be out of the house, if we do break up, within a certain amount of time. It’s a fair amount of time, considering his children will live here part-time. It all seems so business-like, doesn’t it? And, also, child-like. In my head, I’m like, ”It’s mine, m-i-n-e, MINE!” But, actually, it IS my house and whatever money I’ve made (from my books or savings or stocks for years) is actually mine! And, please, we’ve all seen split ups turn ugly…even over dogs! One of my friends, who smartly HAD a cohabitation agreement when she moved in with her boyfriend, because she paid for the house, still almost had to go to court for her dog. She ended up paying her boyfriend a lump sum of money for the dog, which he argued about. He took the money. So, yes, when it comes to break ups, people ARE child-like.

Unless, of course, I decide I want to gift him or his children with certain trips, clothes or whatever, which obviously is not out of the question and has happened (I bought him a motorcycle for his birthday), what’s mine will be mine at the time of move in and what’s his will be his (I will never be able to fight for his Lazy-Boy chair. Sigh). Anything we purchase after that together, we’ll have to split, but only AFTER. We will be a family, just with an agreement, signed and sealed, that’s not a question.

What is out of the question is any wondering what will happen if we do break up, thanks to an agreement already in place. Make no mistake, I’m crazy in love with my boyfriend and his kids. But I’m not crazy.

(Photo: iStockphoto)

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