We've agreed on everything. Do we really need a written agreement?
Yes, you need a written agreement regarding family law issues in order for the agreement to be valid and enforceable. A verbal agreement in family law is not legally binding, regardless of whether you are at the cohabitation, marriage or separation stage of your relationship.
There can be major consequences related to property, debt and spousal support entitlement if you don't put your agreement in writing. It is extremely important to address financial rights and responsibilities in writing when you move in together.
Our situation is very simple. Can we write our own agreement and have a Notary Public witness it?
It is not a good idea to write your own Cohabitation Agreement or Marriage Agreement, or to use a generic kit to prepare an agreement as chances are high that you may leave out an important detail or you may use words that have a different legal meaning than what you understand. If you sign a Cohabitation Agreement or Marriage Agreement that turns out to be problematic, it can be very expensive and sometimes impossible to correct the issue so it is always advisable to have a family law agreement properly drafted by a family law professional.
Also, a Notary Public is not allowed to witness family law agreements.
I've heard mediation is the most cost-effective way of getting a cohabitation agreement prepared. Is that true?
Yes! Family mediation allows you to share the cost of one professional rather than each hiring your own lawyers. The process is cooperative and therefore generally proceeds much faster than the traditional legal process which also keeps the cost down. This process is also so much more comfortable for couples in love who are just trying to put some financial boundaries in place.
we are really happy together and an agreement seems like a buzzkill for our upcoming wedding.
You'll be planning flowers and cakes and speeches for the big day and, yes, we encourage you to add planning your financial future together onto your to-do list. Think of it as a cross between an investment in the health of your relationship and an insurance policy. Couples who have braved open discussions about their finances tend to have less financial tension in their relationship. Our process will help you get started on the strongest possible footing. And if the unthinkable happens (a separation or a death), you will be prepared with a financial roadmap so that you do not have to worry about money when you are grieving the loss of your relationship.
How long is the mediation process?
This will depend on the complexity of your circumstances and how far along you are in your discussions. Most couples who work with me on a Cohabitation Agreement or Marriage Agreement are able to reach the terms of agreement within 1 - 2 joint meetings.
Do we all have to be in the same location for this to work?
No, we don't - that is the beauty of online mediation. I am based in Vernon, British Columbia and I work with clients across British Columbia by either teleconference, video chat, or a combination.
As long as you have either a phone connection or an internet connection, I can work with you without anyone incurring the time and cost of travel:
you and your partner and I can be in three different geographic locations; or
you and your partner can be in the same location and I can be in a different location.
How can I start getting organized?
You can start gathering the financial documents regarding your income, assets and debts. You don't need to have all of the documents ready before starting mediation but it can save you some time during the process if you are fairly organized when we start.