Quebec is often known for doing things a little bit differently than the rest of Canada, and their approach to common law marriages is no exception. It's important to remember that "common law marriage" is really an informal term; there is no overarching legal definition that applies all across Canada. Instead, each province has its own rules about what relationships they recognize and what rights are given to people in those relationships.
So if you and your partner live in Quebec and need to know what the legal consequences of living together will be, it's important to know the specific way that Quebec treats such relationships.
De Facto Unions Are Not Marriages
The civil code of Quebec doesn't recognize common-law partnerships as a type of marriage. Instead, they use a different term: "de facto" partners. A couple, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, can be considered de facto partners if they have lived together in a relationship for three years or if they have lived together for one year after the birth or adoption of a child. However, there is no point at which this couple, living together, is legally affected by marriage laws.
This means that the standard rights of marriage – things like legal joining of property during marriage and the division of joint property when a marriage ends – do not apply to these de facto unions. The idea behind this is that no couple is forced to have their relationship be subject to marital law; it must be a conscious choice.
Breaking Up A De Facto Union
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a de facto union is that it gives a couple the opportunity to keep their assets and belongings completely, legally separate. Should a relationship end, this can make the process of separating out belongings simpler; basically, it's no different than platonic roommates. No legal documentation is necessary since no legal protections apply.
It's possible to create a legal contract around a de facto union. This would be most commonly done if there were a child or children involved. No matter whether the parents are in a civil union or marriage, a de facto union, or separated, there are certain legal responsibilities that parents will always have towards their children: to provide for their food, clothing, shelter and education.
A cohabitation contract can lay out how each parent is expected to provide this should the relationship end. It can also lay out how custody of children will be split and whether child support will be paid. It can also list belongings and ownership, from house to car to dishes, so that there are no legal fights over who owns what.
If you are going to live in a de facto union and you want your partner to inherit should you die, it is crucial that you have a will. Without a will, a de facto partner has no place in the legal succession of an estate; they do not qualify as a spouse. Creating a will ensures that your property will be distributed exactly as you wish.
If you and your partner have any questions regarding this unique type of law, consider contacting a professional lawyer, such as those from Bildfell Law Lawyer.