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| resourcetype = more resources dealing with
|link = [https://www.clicklaw.bc.ca/global/search?k=separation%20agreements Separation Agreements]
}}A family law agreement — like a cohabitation agreement, a marriage agreement or a separation agreement — is a contract, just like the contract you might have with an employer or a landlord: each party promises to do something in exchange for something the other party promises to do, and both parties expect that they'll be held responsible for fulfilling their promises. In family law, contracts like these are used to settle the issues that come up when a relationship ends, although cohabitation agreements and marriage agreements are sometimes also used to settle how a relationship will be managed.
This chapter begins with an overview of family law agreements, and discusses the role they play during relationships and when relationships end. It also reviews the typical elements of a family law agreement and discusses some of the things you might wish to keep in mind when negotiating and drafting an agreement yourself.
The other sections of this chapter look at [[Cohabitation Agreements|cohabitation agreements]], [[Marriage Agreements|marriage agreements]] and [[Separation Agreements|separation agreements]] in more detail, and provide additional information about [[Enforcing Family Law Agreements|enforcing an agreement]] and [[Changing Family Law Agreements|changing an agreement]].
The usual point of agreements like these is to say what will happen if the relationship breaks down, although they can also talk about how things will be handled during the relationship or if one person dies during the relationship. The weird thing about marriage agreements and cohabitation agreements is that although they mostly talk about what will happen when a relationship ends, that may not happen for five years or 20 years, or it may never happen at all. As a result, it can be difficult to make plans based on what the family's circumstances might be like at some unknown point in the future when the relationship ends.
Married spouses, unmarried spouses and other unmarried couples who enter into an agreement after their relationship has broken down are entering into a ''separation agreement''. A separation agreement is a contract that describes how some or all of the legal issues arising from the end of the relationship have been resolved.
All of these different kinds of agreement are legal contracts that describe the parties' rights and obligations towards one another. They can deal with everything from who gets to keep the Kenny G boxed CD set, to where the children will live, to how the parties will deal with their mutual friends, to who gets to keep the Ford Pinto. While these agreements are usually all-inclusive, they don't have to be; some issues can be left aside for the courts to deal with. A couple might sign a ''property agreement'' dealing with just property issues, or a ''parenting agreement'' dealing with just the care of the children when their relationship has ended.
Despite the intentions of the couple when they signed an agreement, the terms of their agreement may still wind up being reviewed by the court, and possibly changed, if one of the parties later has a problem with the agreement. While the court will pay a great deal of respect to any written agreement, if an agreement was unfairly negotiated, is significantly unfair or becomes significantly unfair the court will generally be willing to look into things and perhaps set aside the agreement and make an order on different terms.
The ''[[Family Law Act]]'' encourages people to make agreements resolving their disputes rather than going to court. Section 6 of the act says this: