Separation and Divorce
Separation of couples in a de facto union
Spouses who are living together in a de facto union, without being married or in a civil union, do not benefit from the provisions of the Civil Code of Québec that apply to the family patrimony.
To avoid problems if you and your partner separate or if one of you dies, you can provide for the fair division of your property through:
- a cohabitation contract; or
- a will.
If you separate, the settlement will then be based on your cohabitation contract. All the terms of the contract must be executed in full to settle the obligations of the spouses toward each other (gifts, division of property, lump sum payment, etc.).
Scope of this section
The information on this page applies only to spouses who were living in a de facto union and are separating.
Recourse based on a cohabitation contract
When two spouses have signed a cohabitation contract, they must both comply with it. If one spouse fails to comply, the other spouse can apply to the court to have the contract enforced.
Only the clauses concerning the spouses' children (support payments, custody rights, access rights, etc.) can be amended as needed by the judge in order to protect the children's rights and ensure their well-being.
A will does not offer the same guarantees as a cohabitation contract, since it is not an enforceable contract.
A will is a unilateral document; each spouse can make a will and make changes up to the time of his or her death without notifying the other spouse.
A will is therefore a solution based on trust between the two spouses.
De facto spouses can also separate amicably.
For example, they can settle the terms of their separation with or without help from a mediator, notary or lawyer.
They can specify:
- who will have custody of their children;
- the amount of any child support payments;
- visiting and outing rights for the non-custodial parent;
- the division of their property.
The steps that apply after a family mediation process may apply to an amicable separation. Please see the section After mediation.
When agreement is impossible
Spouses who are unable to reach an agreement can get help from a family mediator or a legal advisor.
As a last resort, they can submit their case to the courts.
Obligation of support towards a former de facto spouse
When two de-factor spouses separate, however long they have lived together, they have no obligation of support towards each other.
For example, if you are in need and your former spouse has a substantial income, you are not entitled to receive a support payment to meet your needs.
However, both parents still have an obligation of support towards their children.
On this topic, see the following sections:
Partition of employment earnings by former de facto spouses
De facto spouses who separate can apply for the partition of their employment earnings registered under the Québec Pension Plan for the time they were together.
Partition is not applied automatically, as it would be for spouses who were married or in a civil union. Both former spouses must make the application.
For more details on the partition of employment earnings, see the section on this topic on the website of Retraite Québec .
However, before making a decision, the former spouses should request a simulation of the effects of partition.
Last update: April 12, 2023