Understanding Common-Law Relationships in Quebec

Quebec Common Law Relationships

Do you want to learn about Quebec Common Law and how it affects you? This information is provided as information only, as our law firm does not operate in Quebec. As such, please do not contact our law firm with questions about Quebec family law. Please contact a lawyer in Quebec instead. Also please note that Quebec has a different style of law than the rest of Canada. This article provides general information about common law in Canada as so many people are contacting law firms for help.

In BC and Ontario (where we practice law), we are constantly contacted to do separation agreements for clients. Many people also contact us to purchase two hours of legal advice for a flat rate of $700. Most of the time they want to know if they are common law or not.

More and more couples today are opting out of marriage. The social stigma’s around unmarried couples living together is almost nonexistent. Many people want to stay away from the traditional values of marriage. So what does that mean when common law couples in Quebec have a falling out?

Quebec family law is built upon the premises of resulting and constructive trusts. This means that for most property one party can claim ownership and entitlement rights to a property. They must prove that it was their actions, money, and work that amounted to the property ownership.

Quebec Common Law

If a couple has been living in a condo for 10 years but only one of the people has paid the down payment, the mortgage, utilities and the property taxes, the other person is unlikely to obtain any value from that property upon separation.

Let’s say a common law couple has been in a relationship for 15 years and one of the parties has a pension that has been built up for those same 15 years. It was that person who worked at the specific job and earned the pension. The other party is unlikely to obtain any part of that pension.

There are specific situations that call this division of property into question. An example of this would be that one partner chose to give up their career to raise the couple’s children.  Even if couples are not considering getting married, they should discuss their property rights with a family law lawyer. This will help them determine whether a cohabitation agreement makes sense. There are also other legal contracts that could be beneficial in protecting their assets in the case of a separation in the future.

If you are no longer in your common law relationship, you do not earn enough income, and you have been living together for three years, you can ask your spouse to pay support.

“Questioning” in Family Law

If you have attended your first court appearance in family law court, you have likely heard a judge or a lawyer mention that leave has been granted to proceed with questioning. You might think that this is just another formality. Many clients think this goes along with what the judge needs to deal with before they can go forward with either a motion date or try to get to a trial.

Questioning in family law is much more important that just another hoop the court wants you to jump through. It can be your best opportunity to get the answers you need to avoid going to trial and potentially spending $5000+ on family lawyers.

Questioning is what the Quebec family law courts refer to as your opportunity for direct and cross examination of the other party on the issues that remain unresolved in your case.

These can include family issues such as:

  • bank accounts they refuse to share information about
  • whether they committed past actions that have led to issues with the children
  • loss of property items

Family Law Firm

Questioning is the time for you and your lawyer to rehearse going to trial without having to deal with a judge monitoring the event. You can ask pretty much whatever you want to ask. This goes for the opposing party as well. If both parties have lawyers it is likely that the lawyers will not only attend to asking the questions, but also object to certain questions that are inappropriate or harmful to their client.

Both parties will be able to question the other. You must be prepared to not only ask the questions you want answers to, but also deal with the difficult questions your ex will want you to answer. It is a good idea to discuss potential areas that you think will be raised by your ex in questioning. This will enable you to better prepare how to deal with them. You and your family lawyer can form a working strategy on how to get the most out of your own questioning time.

Quebec Common LawQuebec Isn’t Common Law

There is one province in Canada that does not recognize common law, and that’s Quebec.

If you are common law and you want a separation agreement, it is possible to hire a lawyer outside of the province.

The guideline in Ontario (where we do practice law) is that the couple must have been living together for three years or one year with a child.

Cohabitation agreements are becoming more popular. The topic was recently discussed on Dr. Phil. Here are the key points from the video that should be included in the cohabitation agreement.

  • How much time one person can stay in the house if there is a breakup
  • Negotiating a modest lump sum payment if there is a breakup
  • Details about what happens if the spouse on title for the property dies. Does the other common law partner get the property? Does the spouse on title have a will?

Have a look at the video at the end of the article to learn more about cohabitation agreements. It provides good general information.

Some common law partners are in a marriage like relationship, and they get treated by the courts as a married couple.

Our law firm operates in BC and Ontario using an online model.

In conclusion, stay in the loop with the family law industry, like us on Facebook.