September 21, 2023 | Family patrimony / assets

Will my work instrument have to be sold after my divorce?

The short answer to the question is “no.” To understand why work instruments are protected in the event of a divorce or separation, you need to know if you have a marriage contract. If you do not, then you will need to understand the notion of partnership of acquests and what it consists of. Partnership of acquests is both a matrimonial regime and a civil union regime. Since  July 1, 1970,  following a family law reform, the partnership of acquests has been the default legal regime in Québec for couples that have not signed a marriage contract or civil union contract.

Under the regime, your property belongs to one of two categories: acquests and private property. Article 450 of the Quebec Civil Code (C.c.Q.) lists the assets that constitute private property. Each spouse retains his or her own private property, while acquests are subject to partition and are usually shared equally between the spouses. Paragraph 6 of the aforementioned article states “the instruments required for that spouse’s occupation, saving compensation where applicable.” Therefore, work instruments constitute private property and are not subject to partition.

As a basic criteria, the work instrument must be necessary for the execution of the individual’s profession. In the context of a vehicle used by an individual for driving their taxi, the vehicle and the taxi permit would need to be used frequently and over extended periods of time to be considered a work instrument. Furthermore, the Court of Appeal of Quebec ruled in Droit de la famille — 113877[1], that the taxi car and its corresponding permit cannot be considered work instruments pursuant to 450(6) C.c.Q. because the individual was no longer working as a taxi driver at the time of separation. It is therefore clear that the work instrument must not only be necessary for the execution of the profession but must also still be used for the profession at the time of separation. It is also understood that a vehicle would unlikely be considered a work instrument if one of the ex-spouses uses the vehicle occasionally for Uber rides as a secondary source of income.

Other examples of work instruments that constitute private property are musical instruments used by one of the spouses in their career as a musician, music teacher, or other professions that require use of a musical instrument. Based on the applicable case law, a musical instrument such as a piano that sits in the family residence and is used by one of the spouses for piano lessons would not automatically be considered private property. The piano lessons would need to be a full time profession and not a secondary source of income where the piano is only used for a few hours a day or exclusively used on weekends. In such cases, the piano would be considered an acquest and be subject to partition between the spouses.

[1] 2011 QCCA 2248,

In the case of a work instrument purchased during the marriage or civil union and where private funds and joint funds were used, the partner who claims professional use of the instrument would be required to pay the other spouse compensation. This is to mitigate the loss of the value of the instrument not being partitionable and to account for the assumed contribution by both parties in the purchasing of the instrument since it occurred during the relationship and was not purchased solely with private funds.

If you have any other questions please feel free to reach out to our team.