December 30, 2022 | Family patrimony / assets

Marriage vs. Civil Union

In order to have a legal union in Quebec you do not necessarily need to get married. There is another option, known as a civil union.

There are several legal consequences to getting married. That being said, living together for several years does not have any of the legal consequences of marriage. The notion of common-law partners in Quebec does not exist, except for the purpose of filing your income taxes jointly if you are living under the same roof.

Marriage can only take place between two people in Canada. They can be of the same or opposite sex. Polygamy, meaning being married to several people, is prohibited. Therefore, when you are legally married, your spouse cannot marry someone else until their marriage is dissolved.

In Quebec, you must be at least 16 years old to get married, however you need the court’s permission if you decide to get married before you turn 18.

Furthermore, your future spouse must be single, divorced, or widowed. Marriage is also prohibited between relatives such as brother and sister, half-brother and half-sister, and any two blood related people in a direct line of descent. However, marriage is permitted between cousins, aunts or uncles and nieces or nephews, and former brothers or sisters in laws.

In order to end a marriage, you and your spouse need a divorce judgement. However, a marriage can be annulled by the court if one of its requirements were not respected.

You can remarry in a civil ceremony if your earlier marriage was dissolved by divorce, annulment or your spouse passed away. There are different rules with respect to remarrying in a religious ceremony and it depends on your faith and denomination.

On the other hand, civil union, which only exists in Quebec, is another type of legal relationship where couples can officially have rights and obligations such as the promise to live together.

It was created in 2002 with the initial goal of allowing same-sex couples to have the benefits that had previously been reserved for married couples only. In 2005, same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada, but civil unions still exist to this day. However, today some couples still prefer Civil Union over marriage, as it avoids stereotypes and gender roles that come with the institution of marriage. LGBTQIA+ community in Quebec, sees benefits to opting for Civil Union over marriage, with respect to personal choice and comfort. So for now it is still another option available.

There are many similarities between civil unions and marriages. For example, civil-union spouses cannot be married or in a civil union with someone else as well. They also cannot be in a civil union with a close relative. Most notably, they have the same rights and obligations as spouses that are married.

Their contract is called a civil union contract and the regime is called a civil-union regime instead of a matrimonial regime.

Some of the other differences include the age requirement for a civil union. Unlike marriage, both people must be 18 years old or older. Also, civil unions are not guaranteed to be recognized in the rest of Canada or elsewhere in the world outside of Quebec. If you plan to move, you should make sure to check how your civil union will be viewed and if it could be a problem, for example in the case of adoption or death.

Furthermore, if you and your spouse in a civil union do not want to live together and there are no children involved, you can end it with a joint written declaration in front of a notary. However, if you have children or you cannot agree on the terms of your breakup, you can end your civil union by receiving a court decision. A civil union also ends with marriage. Therefore, if you and your partner in a civil union get married, it ends automatically. A civil union also ends with the death of one of the spouses.

Marriage and civil unions have several similarities but are also very different in terms of their recognition outside of Quebec as well as the ways that they are dissolved. Many couples will choose to opt for a civil union instead of a marriage and the choice is based entirely on what is best for you and your future spouse in your particular situation.