Pre-Nuptials, as they are commonly known, are governed by the Family Law Act in the Northwest Territories. In Canada, we call pre-nuptials a Marriage Contract.

The term “pre-nuptial” or “pre-nup” does not appear anywhere in the Family Law Act. Rather the Family Law Act recognizes a number of different types of Domestic Contracts, one of which is a marriage contract.

According to the Family Law Act, a marriage contract is an agreement that can be entered into by persons who are married to each other or intend to be married. In short, a marriage contract can be entered into at anytime prior to marriage or during marriage so long as the relationship is still in tact. Stating that marriage contracts can only be entered into in advance of marriage is erroneous.

While the idea of a marriage contract, or a pre-nup to use the American terminology, has been brought into the common lexicon by celebrities like Britney Spears and Kevin Federline or Keeping Up with the Kardashians, marriage contracts aren’t just for the rich and famous.

Division of assets and determining what’s theirs and yours is only a small part of a marriage contract. A marriage contract can also include planning for support obligations, how expenses will be split, and the education and religious upbringing of children.

What if you aren’t married? That’s OK – there’s a Domestic Contract for that too! It’s called a Cohabitation Agreement and serves a similar function for non-married couples who live together.

Whether or not a couple enters into a Domestic Contract is a personal decision. While investigating and understanding the risks and making educated decisions doesn’t sound sexy and romantic, taking steps to try and avoid a costly litigious divorce or separation is.

So, is Yellowknife a Domestic Contract free zone? Maybe – but it doesn’t have to be.

Stephanie Laurella, associate at Lawson Lundell LLP

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