What is a domestic contract? A domestic contract, much like any contract, is entered into by two individuals to regulate or settle issues between them. As the name implies, domestic contracts regulate family matters. It is not necessary for the parties to be married, or indeed to even be together. For example a domestic contract can regulate the parenting arrangements between two people who have a child out of wedlock.
Broadly speaking domestic contracts cover arrangements regarding marriage, cohabitation, separation, paternity and family arbitration. In Ontario marriage contracts, cohabitation agreements and separation agreements are expressly recognized by statue, specifically the Family Law Act, but in general, they work much the same way as a regular contract, in that both parties are bound by its clauses. In the event of a breach of these clauses by either party, the wronged party may seek damages or compensation.
The specifics of the different types of domestic contracts are a discussion for another time, but all of them have to comply with the regulations of the Family Law Act. This means that the contract must be made, 1) in writing, 2) signed by both parties, and 3) witnessed. Usually, one party will retain a lawyer for the purpose of drafting up the contract. Upon completion, the lawyer will provide said contract to the second party, who will, in turn, have to go speak to another lawyer. This is called getting independent legal advice and forestalls any potential litigation by either party claiming that the drafting lawyer was biased.
Usually, there are some details that will be discussed and changed. Once both parties are happy, either a meeting of all parties will take place for the execution or it will be done through the mail. Upon the signature and witness of the latter party, the contract takes effect. Most lawyers have a safe in their office where a copy of the said contract will be stored. Both parties will also keep a copy with them.
There are many good reasons to formalize a domestic contract. It sets out the specific duties and obligations of the parties in domestic matters and forestalls many arguments and litigation. They can also establish boundaries and seek to protect the parties or their children from one another.
If you feel that you would benefit from a domestic contract and live in the Greater Toronto Area, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Bykov Law for a free consultation.