What are a de facto union, a marriage and a civil union?

De facto union

A de facto union exists when two persons live together with or without founding a family. The two persons are then de facto spouses, that is, they cohabit, without being married or forming a civil union.

Under the law, de facto spouses do not have the same rights and responsibilities as spouses in a marriage or civil union, however long they live together.

For more information, consult the website of the ministère de la Justice du Québec This link opens a new window..

Marriage

Marriage is a solemn act by which two persons publicly express their free and enlightened consent to live together and comply with the rights and obligations related to this civil status, as imposed by law.

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Civil union

A civil union is a solemn act by which two persons publicly express their free and enlightened consent to live together and comply with the rights and obligations related to this civil status.

However, unlike marriage, a civil union is valid only in Québec. Consequently, if a couple in a civil union wishes to settle outside Québec, they should consult a legal advisor in order to prevent unfortunate consequences in case of death or breakup.

Civil union status was created in 2002, particularly to allow the union of same-sex spouses. It still exists, although same-sex couples have been able to marry since 2005.

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Differences between marriage and civil union

The table below indicates the differences between marriage and civil union.

Type of union Age required at the time of solemnization Possible for same-sex and opposite-sex spouses? Recognized outside Québec? How to terminate it in case of breakup?
Marriage 16 years of age (with the court’s agreement) Yes Yes Divorce
Civil union 18 years of age Yes No

Notarized joint declaration (if the couple has no dependent children)

Dissolution of a civil union (if the couple has children or is unable to come to an agreement)

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Reviewed: 2019-03-27


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