Overview of Marriage Agreement


What is this document?

A Marriage Agreement is an agreement entered into by a married couple, or two people intending to marry on a specified date.


When would I use this document?

A married couple or to-be-married couple would enter into a Marriage Agreement when they wish to deal with the possibility of a breakdown of the relationship, and wish to provide for rules governing spousal support and/or property that are different from the laws otherwise applicable to them.


Who signs this Agreement?

The spouses or to-be spouses will sign a Marriage Agreement.


More details about this document

A Marriage Agreement is sometimes also known as a Pre-Nuptial Agreement if the couple enters into the agreement before the date of marriage. Marriage agreements can vary greatly in length, depending on the number of assets dealt with in the agreement, and the number of topics covered in the agreement. Some agreements can be very biased in favour of the spouse with the most bargaining power.

Before signing a Marriage Agreement, both parties must confirm that they have received independent legal advice from a lawyer.

A ‘breakdown of the relationship’ may include divorce, separation or death of one of the parties.

Key items that are determined in a Marriage Agreement include: who owns the matrimonial home in the event of a breakdown of marriage; whether one spouse will pay spousal support to the other spouse in the event of a breakdown of marriage; how much spousal support will be paid; the division of the spouses’ other assets; the division of the spouses’ liabilities; and whether the applicable legal scheme of property division will apply.

Parties should be aware that the courts can set aside the terms of a marriage contract for equitable (fairness) or public policy reasons, and that the courts reserve the right to determine what is in the best interests of any children of the marriage. If a couple is in doubt about whether their agreement is enforceable, they should consult a family law expert in the jurisdiction where they live.  


What are the core elements of this document?

The core elements of a Marriage Agreement include: Property; Spousal Support; Date of Marriage Home; Debts and Liabilities; Independent Legal Advice; and Dispute Resolution.

Some additional clauses may include: Children; Review of Agreement; and Rights on Death.


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