Marriage contracts are legally enforceable when it is a product best characterized by full and fair negotiation, financial disclosure, intelligibility and conformity with the principles of contract law. In other words, the proper steps are taken to ensure each party made a full, fair and informed decision when agreeing to the terms of the marriage contract. When a Court satisfies itself of all of this, it is highly unlikely a party challenging the marriage contract will be able to set it aside.
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It should be quite self-evident that a marriage contract is in essence a contract. As such, general principles of the law of contract apply. One such principle in particular which may adequately answer this question is the doctrine of unconscionability – the idea that the bargain in a contract ought not to be unfairly one-sided to the point of shocking the Court’s conscience.
With this in mind, it seems a marriage contract should not unduly favor one party’s interests over the other. The problem is that this is the goal of... MORE »
When a party to a marriage contract is not satisfied with the terms of the agreement, he or she may seek to “set aside” the contract. Section 56(4) of the Family Law Act prescribes the circumstances in which a Court may grant such relief, setting aside the entire agreement, or certain provisions.
According to s.56(4), a Court may set aside a domestic contract (for e.g., a marriage contract) or provision therein:
- if a party failed to disclose to the other significant assets, or significant debts or other liabilities, existing when the domestic... MORE »
In Ontario, a marriage contract will be legally binding if the following conditions are met:
- It is in writing;
- Each party made full and frank disclosure about their financial situation to the other;
- It is entered into voluntary, meaning no duress or undue influence;
- Each party had legal capacity and understood the contract;
- Each party received independent legal advice;
- The bargain is not unconscionable; and
- It is properly signed in the presence of witnesses.
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While spouses can make any type of financial arrangement in a marriage contract, there are a couple major items which cannot form party of a valid marriage contract. One, parties to a marriage contract cannot pre-determine custody or access to the children. And, two, a marriage contract cannot put any limits on the rights of either party to occupy the matrimonial home. These legal prescriptions are enshrined in section 52(2) and section 52(1)(c) of the Family Law Act, respectively.
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