Quebecers favor de facto couples benefiting from the same rights as married couples

The proportion of couples living together in Quebec who are neither married nor in a civil union has increased dramatically: from eight per cent in 1981 to 42 per cent in 2021.

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A large majority of Quebecers are in favor of single or de facto spouses benefiting from the same protections as married couples in the event of separation, according to a study carried out by researchers from the National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS) and the University of Sherbrooke.

More than 2,500 people across the province responded to a 2022 survey on the topic, part of a larger study. The survey analyzes were published in a report titled: A legal framework for de facto relationships in Quebec? What the population thinks.

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Hélène Belleau, INRS professor and holder of the Chamber of Financial Security chair on money, inequality and society, explained that several scenarios were proposed to the respondents and the vast majority responded affirmatively to the question: “Would you be in favor of To give de facto couples the same protection as married couples in the event of separation, while allowing the right of exclusion to those couples who reject such protection?

“What is emerging is really a general consensus in Quebec on the part of people in favor of equal treatment between de facto spouses and married couples,” including couples with children and those without children after a certain number of years of coexistence. said Belleau.

As for the numbers, “we found that 72 percent of people are favorable. When we look at just common-law couples, it’s 76 percent. Among women it is 75 percent and among men the figure is 68 percent,” she said.

This does not surprise Belleau, because Quebecers are very much in favor of equality between men and women, he said.

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“Most people realize that with the arrival of children there can be an imbalance between spouses in terms of marital life.”

In light of previous studies, he explained that “the reason why de facto couples often do not marry is because they consider a wedding to be too expensive and having a civil ceremony risks being an affront to the family or children.” friends who invited the couples.” to his own marriage.”

Certain couples also do not want to marry for religious reasons or because they associate marriage with traditional roles, he said.

However, “in Quebec, half of de facto couples believe that being married and having a de facto relationship are the same thing,” Belleau said. This confusion can be explained in part by the province’s tax system and laws, under which couples must declare themselves as common-law spouses on their tax returns after a certain number of years of living together, she said.

According to government data, the proportion of couples living together in Quebec who are neither married nor in a civil union has increased dramatically: from eight per cent in 1981 to 42 per cent in 2021. According to Statistics Canada, the proportion across country was 23 percent in 2021.

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On March 27, Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette introduced Bill 56, a family law reform bill that proposes, among other things, the creation of a new “parental union” regime. ” that frames the rights and obligations of common-law spouses with children.

The status would automatically apply to new parents who are not married or in a formal civil union. It would establish certain property, including the family home, furniture and vehicles, common property, regardless of who has official ownership.

The value of those assets would then be divided equally between the parents if they separated, although couples could choose to withdraw from the property provision or adjust its scope. Members of a separated parental union could also seek additional compensation from the courts if they contributed disproportionately to the value of the joint assets to their own financial detriment.

Carmen Lavallée, a professor at the University of Sherbrooke’s law school who participated in the study on de facto relationships, said that when the bill was presented in the National Assembly, the minister said its objective was not to provide a framework legislative for singles. , or de facto couples, which is similar to that of married couples.

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The goal, rather, is to protect children born from such a relationship. However, the proposed law does not protect all children immediately: the legislation extends protection of the family home for children born from a de facto relationship, but only to those children born after the law comes into force ( end of June 2025). said Lavallée.

Ultimately, the proposed legislation maintains three categories of children, he stated: Children born to married parents remain the best protected, children born to common-law spouses before the law came into force remain without any legal protection and unborn children after the law goes into effect.

For children born from a de facto union in which this protection exists, the spouse who is not the owner of the home will be required to make a declaration of family residence. This is a way to legally protect that couple’s place in the home.

But Belleau said few common-law spouses will be affected by this measure since, in 2022, 80 percent of common-law couples with minor children bought their home together.

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“To truly end discrimination against children, the law should have immediately applied to all children born to common-law couples,” Lavallée said.

Bill 56 includes other provisions, such as the possibility of compensatory damages and the division of certain assets.

“Yes, the law provides for a number of things, but when we look at each of its elements, we realize that these provisions are not that advantageous in the sense of reducing the economic consequences of the breakdown of a common law relationship. “Both about children and spouses,” said Lavallée.

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