This guide provides information on separation, divorce, family mediation, child custody and support payments.

It also outlines the rights and obligations of separated spouses and explains how to notify government departments and agencies when there is a change in your family situation.

Couples who are married or joined in a civil union

De facto separation This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

A de facto separation results when two spouses agree to cease living together or one of the spouses abandons the family residence. In the eyes of the law, the spouses are still married or joined in a civil union. Furthermore, each spouse retains his or her rights and obligations in respect of their children.

Divorce This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

Divorce is the only way to terminate a marriage. If the couple is able to come to agreement, they can file a joint application for divorce. If they cannot agree, the application for divorce is submitted to be decided by a judge.

Legal consequences of marriage or civil union This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from Éducaloi

Marriage and civil union are legal transactions whereby two persons publicly commit themselves to live together and promise one another respect, fidelity, support and assistance.

Marriage and civil union provide legal protections to each of the spouses with regard to: 

  • The formation and contents of the family patrimony
  • The selection and protection of the family residence
  • The spouses’ obligation to support one another
  • The right to claim a compensatory allowance

Legal separation (separation from bed and board)   This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

Legal separation, also referred to as “separation from bed and board,” frees married spouses from the obligation to live together. Legal separation results from a judgment granted by the Superior Court of Québec when the spouses’ desire to live together is seriously undermined. Such a judgment settles all the aspects of their separation, particularly child custody and access rights, support payments and partition of property. Unlike divorce, legal separation does not terminate the marriage. The spouses are still required to abide by the rights and obligations arising from their marriage.

A legal separation may be granted on application by both spouses or only one of them. Legal separation is not an option available to spouses in a civil union.

Matrimonial and civil union regimes This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

Persons who are married or joined in a civil union are subject to the rules of their matrimonial or civil union regime. These rules specify how the property that is outside the family patrimony is to be partitioned in the case of a separation.

If a marriage or civil union contract was signed, your matrimonial regime is the one you selected in your contract. If there is no contract, your matrimonial regime is the one that was applicable to you on the date of your marriage or civil union.

De facto spouses

Breakdown of a de facto union, cohabitation agreement and separation agreement This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

If your de facto union breaks down, each de facto spouse keeps his or her own property. Spouses living in a de facto union do not have a family patrimony; therefore, you are not required to divide your property into two equal shares if your union breaks down.

However, you can ensure that your household property (family residence, furniture, etc.) will be divided fairly by making a cohabitation agreement or a separation agreement.

De facto union This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

Two persons of the same sex or opposite sex who are not married or joined in a civil union form a de facto union if they live together and publicly present themselves as a couple.

Such a union does not afford the same legal protections as those offered by marriage or civil union (partition of the family patrimony, protection of the family residence, obligation of support, etc.).

However, children have the same rights, whether or not their parents are married.

Children

Abduction of a child by a parent This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

As a parent, you can file a complaint for abduction if, without your agreement, your former spouse 

  • arrogates sole custody of your child, even though the court has not yet ruled on custody or has already made different custody arrangements
  • attempts to deprive you of your custody rights or visiting rights

Access rights of grandparents This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from Éducaloi

If there are conflicts within the family or if a couple separates, parents may not prevent their children from maintaining a relationship with their grandparents, unless there is a serious reason to do so. If parents make it difficult or impossible for grandparents to see their grandchildren, the grandparents may apply to the courts for relief.

Change in child custody arrangements This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from Éducaloi

A parent cannot change child custody arrangements without the other parent’s agreement. Certain situations may justify revising the custody decision rendered by the court.

Determination of child custody This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

When a couple with children separates, the parents must decide on the child custody arrangements. Custody may be assumed by one of the parents or shared between them. The parents may use a family mediator to reach an amicable agreement on child custody. If they are unable to come to an agreement, they can have their legal representatives apply to the court. The judge will then determine the custody arrangements, as well as access and outing rights if sole custody is assigned to only one of the parents.

Parental authority This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

Parental authority covers the rights and obligations of parents in respect of their children from the time of birth, whatever their type of union or the type of filiation with their child (blood, assisted procreation or adoption). When a couple separates, each spouse continues to exercise parental authority over his or her child, even if one of them is granted sole custody.

Legal formalities and the separation process

Copy of a document filed at the court office This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Administered by the Ministère de la Justice

To consult or obtain a copy of judgments or proceedings filed in a court record, you must go to the court office with proof of your identity and pay the required fee. You may also be asked to explain why you need the document.

Certain judgments can be consulted by using the online Find a decision This hyperlink will open in a new window. service.

Community justice centres This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Community justice centre services

In several regions of Québec, you can obtain legal information services confidentially and at no charge by contacting a community justice centre. These centres also provide referrals to other locally based legal resources.

Family mediation This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

Family mediation is a method of conflict resolution in which an impartial mediator works with parents to help them settle the details of their separation (child custody arrangements, access rights, support payments, etc.) without resort to the courts.

The family mediation program is designed for both married and unmarried couples with dependent children and provides them with the services of a professional mediator for a certain number of sessions at no charge.

Information session on parenting after separation This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

If former spouses with children fail to come to agreement during family mediation, they may apply to the court, but before doing so, they are legally required to participate in a session on parenting after separation.

These information sessions are given at court houses by accredited family mediators and are offered at no charge. Their purpose is to prepare parents to deal with the consequences of their break-up and settle the details of their separation, either through family mediation or by applying to the court.

Legal aid This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Commission des services juridiques

Legal aid enables low-income individuals to obtain the services of a lawyer either free of charge or by paying a modest contribution. In certain cases, legal aid may also cover the services of a notary.

Modifying custody arrangements, access rights and support payment arrangements: Homologation Assistance Service This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Administered by the Commission des services juridiques

The Homologation Assistance Service helps parents who are separated and wish to revise the terms of a judgment relating to family matters without having to apply to the court. This service is also used to modify a judgment regarding child custody arrangements, access rights (visiting and outing rights) or arrangements regarding support payable for a child, spouse or former spouse. This service is available to the entire population either at no charge or for a modest contribution.

Proof of birth, marriage or civil union: certificates and copies of acts This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Administered by the Directeur de l’état civil

Certain administrative formalities relating to separation or divorce require you to provide proof of birth, marriage or civil union. Only a certificate or a copy of an act—official documents issued by the Directeur de l’état civil—are accepted as proof of birth, or of a marriage or civil union between two individuals.

Services of a commissioner for oaths
Services offered by Services Québec and the Ministère de la Justice

Certain legal procedures require you to swear an oath before a commissioner for oaths.

To swear an oath before a commissioner for oaths, you must

To find a commissioner for oaths appointed by the Minister of Justice, use the online Search for a Commissioner for Oaths This hyperlink will open in a new window. service.

Persons practising certain professions, such as lawyers and notaries, are automatically empowered to administer oaths.

Support payments

Child support This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

Even if they are not married or joined in a civil union, parents have an obligation to support their children, which means that they are required to provide for the child’s essential needs (housing, food, health care, etc.). The support obligation continues even if the parents terminate their union. In this situation, child support may required for a minor child and, in some circumstances, for a child age 18 or over.

Service administratif de rajustement des pensions alimentaires pour enfants This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Administered by the Commission des services juridiques

Parents can adjust the amount of their child support payments without applying to the court by using the Service administratif de rajustement des pensions alimentaires pour enfants (SARPA). This is possible, for example, where there is a change in the child’s expenses or in the financial situation of one of the parents.

To find out how to modify the terms of a support judgment, refer to Modifying custody arrangements, access rights and support payment arrangements: Homologation Assistance Service in this guide under the heading Legal formalities and the separation process.

Support-payment collection program This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Administered by Revenu Québec

Under the support-payment collection program, Revenu Québec collects support from debtors of support and pays it to creditors of support.

Under certain conditions, the parties can apply to be exempted from paying or receiving support via Revenu Québec.

Support payments for a former spouse This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

Following legal separation, divorce or dissolution of a civil union, one of the parties may be required to pay support to the other. When ordering payment of support, the judge takes into account the financial resources, needs and general situation of each of the spouses.

If the spouses agree to an amicable separation, they can fix the amount of support payable and include it in the draft agreement to be submitted to the judge.

Partition of property and certain benefits

Compensatory allowance This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

A compensatory allowance compensates a spouse (with a sum of money or a right to property) for the contribution he or she has made (in the form of property or services) over the course of their union to enriching the other spouse’s patrimony.

Family patrimony This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

All spouses who are married or joined in a civil union have a family patrimony, regardless of whether they have children. The family patrimony is made up of certain property that is shared in common by the spouses and used to meet the family’s needs (such as the family residence, furniture and motor vehicles), regardless of which spouse owns it. It also includes benefits accrued under a retirement plan and earnings registered in a pension plan during the marriage or civil union.

Partition of benefits accrued under a public-sector pension plan This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Administered by Retraite Québec

The breakdown of a marriage, civil union or de facto union may affect the benefits accrued by a person who is (or has previously been) a member of a public-sector pension plan.

Partition of employment earnings registered under the Québec Pension Plan This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Administered by Retraite Québec

After a separation between spouses who are married or joined in a civil union, their employment income registered under the Québec Pension Plan during the time they were together can be divided equally. For de facto spouses who are separated, partition is not automatic; they must make a joint application.

Additional earnings registered under the Plan may modify the amount of benefits to which the former spouses are (or will be) entitled. These earnings may also entitle them to a retirement pension, disability benefits or survivors’ benefits.

Partition of supplemental pension plans This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Administered by Retraite Québec

Following the breakdown of a marriage, civil union or de facto union, the former spouses may partition the benefits accrued under a supplemental pension plan subject to the Supplemental Pension Plans Act.

Partition of the family patrimony This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

Following legal separation (separation from bed and board), divorce or dissolution of a civil union, the monetary value of the property constituting the family patrimony is partitioned equally between the spouses.

A judge may authorize an exception to the principle of equal partition if such a division of the family patrimony would result in an injustice for one of the spouses.

Once this declaration is registered, each spouse is required to obtain the other spouse’s written agreement in order to perform certain acts or grant certain rights relating to the family residence and household furniture.

Pension from a foreign country (international social security agreements) This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Administered by Retraite Québec

A worker who contributes (or has contributed) to the pension plan of a country that has signed a social security agreement with Québec may receive a pension from that country. After a separation, contact Retraite Québec to find out how to obtain the foreign pension benefits to which you may be entitled.

The Bureau des ententes de sécurité sociale is responsible for the application of these agreements.

Protection of the family residence This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Ministère de la Justice

The family residence is the dwelling chosen by spouses who are married or joined in a civil union as their family home. A declaration of family residence protects the family’s home and household furniture.

Change in your family situation

Family Allowance This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Administered by Retraite Québec

If you receive the Family Allowance, you should notify Retraite Québec of any change regarding your marital status (such as a divorce or legal separation) or your child custody time (for example, if you cease exercising shared custody or begin exercising sole custody).

Such changes may affect the amount to which you are entitled.

Health insurance This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Administered by the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ)

If you are insured by the Québec Health Insurance Plan, you must notify the RAMQ when there is a change in your address or marital status. It is also important to notify the RAMQ if one of the parents obtains custody of a child.

Lease — Assignment or subleasing This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Tribunal administratif du logement (previously known as the Régie du logement)

If you are not able to resiliate your lease following separation or divorce, you may sublease your dwelling or assign your lease agreement to another person.

Lease — Resiliation This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from the Tribunal administratif du logement (previously known as the Régie du logement)

Failing agreement with your landlord, separation or divorce is not an acceptable reason for terminating your lease. However, resiliation of the lease is allowed in the case of spousal violence or sexual aggression This hyperlink will open in a new window..

Loans and bursaries This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Administered by the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur

If you are a student, a change in your family situation may affect the amount of assistance to which you are entitled. You should inform the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur of any such change.

Prescription drug insurance This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Administered by the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ)

A change in your marital status may affect your prescription drug insurance coverage. You should check to make sure you are still covered.

Separation or divorce — Revenu Québec This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from Revenu Québec

Following separation or divorce, you should notify Revenu Québec of the change in your marital status. It is also important to indicate any such change when you file your income tax return.

Social assistance, Aim for Employment Program and social solidarity This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Administered by the Ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale

A change in your family situation may affect the amount of your benefits or your eligibility for financial assistance paid under a last-resort financial assistance program or the Aim for Employment Program. As soon as possible following such a change, you should notify a local employment centre (CLE) This hyperlink will open in a new window. or your local Services Québec office This hyperlink will open in a new window..

Will This hyperlink will open in a new window.
Information from Éducaloi

You may need to modify your will or make a new will following a change in your family situation. 

Separation or divorce may affect your eligibility for certain federal programs and services. You should contact the Government of Canada This hyperlink will open in a new window. to report any such change in your family situation.

If you need help…

Services Québec This hyperlink will open in a new window.

For information on the programs and services of the Gouvernement du Québec, contact Services Québec.

SOS violence conjugale This hyperlink will open in a new window. (in French only)

SOS violence conjugale provides reception, assessment, information, awareness, support and referral services in both languages to victims of spousal violence and to all persons concerned by this issue. Services are anonymous and confidential.