Why You May or May Not Want a Marriage Agreement/ Prenuptial in Canada

Editor's Note

Advertisers are not responsible for the contents of this site including any editorials or reviews that may appear on this site. For complete and current information on any advertiser product, please visit their Web site.

There seems to be such a stigma when people talk about prenuptial agreements or marriage agreements. When I talk about it to people, there are usually mixed emotions, ranging from disgust, anger, and sadness. Perhaps it is because when you are going forward with a marriage agreement, you may be assuming that the relationship will not or might not work out, and it has a pessimistic view or opinion, far from the optimism that young love and true love brings.

Well, given that 4 in 10 marriages end up in divorce in Canada (according to Statistics Canada, via The Globe and Mail), the odds are barely stacked in your future marriage’s favour. With increased rates of divorce for people who decide to cohabitate before marriage (I remember learning about this in one of my University classes) and more and more people living together before marriage, this probably does not bode well for your future marriage. Sorry to be a downer, but I like to be a realist.

I never thought that my seven-and-a-half-year relationship where we bought a home together and were almost considered a common-law marriage would dissolve. However, now when I reflect back, the writing was on the wall. I didn’t see it that way at the time. When you are blinded by rose-coloured glasses, you don’t think about the potential outcomes or you are in denial about the potential outcomes. A prenuptial agreement or marriage agreement takes the emotion, irrationality and vengefulness out of the potential future relationship breakdown. My ex and I had agreed to split the home 50/50 (we contributed 50/50) but during that tumultuous time, I wasn’t thinking straight and it was very difficult.

Of course, it is undeniably difficult to predict how your future lives will affect you or what kind of success or debt or income you will have together in the future. Of course, marriage is about sharing, generosity, and kindness. However, when you are in the middle of a gruelling separation I doubt there will be much love or much sharing, generosity, or kindness.

What is a Marriage Agreement or Prenuptial Agreement?

In Canada, a “prenup” isn’t really called a prenup, it is labelled as a marriage agreement. Just like cohabitation agreements, a marriage agreement is for individuals who are planning to get married. It serves to protect your assets in case the relationship dissolves. It does not involve child custody. Usually, it is often the partner who has more assets who suggests the prenuptial agreement and oftentimes the receiving partner may feel shame or hurt.

The laws are a bit different in each province (and territory) for marriage agreements, and there has to be separate legal representation in order to validate the contract and to ensure that it is a fair and binding agreement. It is often helpful if you have difficulty talking about how your future might look together, because you have to discuss who will take time off work to raise the children, how you will manage household finances and individual finances (and whether you want to amalgamate everything), how you will manage to care for your parents, and answers questions like what is potential expected income from both of you.

A marriage agreement acts as an insurance policy of sorts. It would be fantastic if you never need to use it, but it is there if you need it.

Why a Marriage Agreement May be Right for You

According to Clicklaw BC, you may want to think about getting a marriage agreement if:

  • You answer “no” to the question “Are you willing to lose half your net worth?”
  • Either of you has significant assets before marriage
  • If you have a large disparity in assets
  • If you may be receiving a large inheritance, profits from a business
  • This is your second marriage and you have assets for family or children you want to protect
  • If there is a large difference in debt levels (when my friend divorced her husband of 15 years, she had to pay for her ex-husband’s debt and it wiped out her retirement savings)

Why a Marriage Agreement May Not be Right for You

  • If both of you don’t have very much debt or savings or assets
  • Both of you are young and are just starting out

How Do We Get a Marriage Agreement and How Much Does it Cost?

Marriage agreement costs vary, depending on your assets and the number of revisions needed. They can be anywhere from $2000 to $10,000. To review (with independent legal advice) a drafted marriage agreement, it can cost anywhere from $450 to $1200.

Of course, you should definitely contact your local family lawyer for more information and seek legal advice if you decide to proceed with a prenuptial or marriage agreement. You can check out LegalLine.ca for more information on marriage agreements in the meantime.

Of course, we all hope there is a “happily ever after”, but a marriage agreement may be helpful in case there isn’t.

Readers, do you have a marriage agreement? What is your reasoning to get a marriage agreement or not get a marriage agreement?


Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals.

Recommended Stories