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What is a Marriage Contract?

A marriage contract is a domestic contract or a family law agreement, which is defined by section 51 of the Family Law Act.   It can be signed before or after the wedding and may deal with ownership in or division of property, possible support obligations and any other matter in the settlement of the parties’ affairs should a separation occur.   However, it is very important to note that a marriage contract cannot deal with the decision making responsibility or parenting time with respect to the children as that can only be determined based on the best interests of the children at the time of separation.

For a marriage contract to be binding, it must be made in writing, signed by the parties and witnessed.   While only those factors are needed to make it a valid domestic contract, it does not mean that all marriage contracts will be upheld if challenged by one party later on in front of a court of law.

To best ensure that your marriage contract will be upheld by a judge in Ontario, the following is a list of best practices and integral information required:

1.  Full and frank disclosure must be provided by both parties in advance of the execution of the contract so that both parties are aware of each other’s assets, debts and income and can each make an informed decision when agreeing to terms to form part of the marriage contract.

2. The negotiation and drafting of the agreement must be done sufficiently in advance of the marriage date to ensure that no party can argue that they were forced/coerced/pressured into the signing of the contract right before the wedding date.    In my practice, I will not engage in negotiating a marriage contract unless the process of disclosure is commenced four months prior to the wedding date.

3. If the marriage is fast approaching and a party wishes for a marriage contract to be entered into,  then one option is to delay the wedding date or if not possible, the marriage contract can be entered into after the marriage to alleviate the argument of pressure or coercion.  The only risk to signing after the marriage is if one party refuses to sign and you are already married.  If this occurs, then tough decisions will have to be made as to what the future holds for the couple.

4. It is very important (although not required to form a binding contract) that both parties obtain independent legal advice prior to entering into a marriage contract to ensure both parties are aware of his/her rights and obligations and what they might be giving up or getting as a result of the terms of the contract.

Still uncertain about what is a marriage contract? Consider consulting the experienced family lawyers at Nathens, Siegel LLP for personalized guidance tailored to your circumstances. 

For more information or to book a reduced rate consultation with one of our lawyers please fill out our contact form here

About the Author

Glen has obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree from McGill University while majoring in Political Science, with a minor in Canadian history. He went on to obtain his LL.B degree in 2010, while studying at the University Of Ottawa Faculty Of Law as part of a select few accepted into the National Program. Glen took a special interest in the field of family law as he completed specialized courses ranging from Complex Division of Property to Child Protection Law and Trust Law.