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If you are not married, protect yourself !

In Quebec, when you live with your partner and start a family without being married or entering a civil union you are considered common-law partners. According to the Civil Code of Québec, you do not have the same rights or responsibilities as married couples, regardless of the length of your union. Hence, it is important to take certain precautions and make arrangements to avoid conflicts that may arise in the event of a separation.


The rights of common-law partners


Unlike spouses who are married or in a civil union, common-law partners unfortunately do not have much protection or rights following separation. Indeed, in the event of separation, a common-law partner will not benefit from the protection of the family home if the other partner is the sole owner of the family residence, nor will they have a right to a division of property. In a de facto union, the partners have no obligation to alimony towards one another, regardless of how long they have lived together and of the partner’s income. A common-law partner will also not be able to apply for a compensatory benefit for work performed during the common-law relationship. In short, a common-law partner is not entitled to much in the event of a separation of the couple. Moreover, in the absence of a Will , the common-law spouse does not inherit anything in case of death, according to the law.

Besides the benefits to which common-law partners are not entitled to, they do have some of the advantages that married spouses have. Namely, they have the right to become tenants of their partner’s dwelling in the event of separation, or they can legally adopt a child. A common-law partner is also entitled to private health or drug insurance coverage with their partner. In addition, should one of the partners die in a car accident, the survivor is entitled to receive a certain indemnity from the Société de l’assurance-automobile du Québec if certain conditions are met. Following the death of one partner, the other partner may systematically receive a pension from the Régie des rentes du Québec after three years of living together, or if a child is born of their union. Also, same as with married couples, a common-law partner has the right to claim alimony if they have custody of the child born of their union. All in all, it can be very useful to draw up a cohabitation agreement beforehand to protect you and your children if necessary.


What is a cohabitation agreement ?


A cohabitation agreement is a legal document which, amon other things, may define the obligations of each person during the cohabitation, but also provide for what will happen to children and property in the event of separation. Established during the union, it is a great precaution to avoid certain conflicts that might arise during or after separation. Indeed, a cohabitation agreement allows common-law partners to agree on various elements, such as the sharing of responsibilities and the contribution of each one during the cohabitation, the way to share common property in the event of a separation, the payment of alimony or other financial compensation to one of the partners in the event of separation, and many other agreements.

Drafting such a contract can be very complex, which is why it is recommended to call on a notary to ensure that your document will respect the wishes of each partner. Obviously, a cohabitation agreement does not replace a Will in the event of death, so it cannot be used for the transfer of property upon the death of one of the partners. In addition, the Court will dismiss the agreement if it contains decisions that are contrary to the best interests of the children. To be sure that your cohabitation agreement does not violate the law and that nothing is left to chance, contact one of the professionals at Trépanier & Raffoul Notaires. This contract legally binds the partners to their agreements, so they can no longer back down. Should they no longer agree on an element or should one of the partners refuse to honour their commitments, the dispute must be brought before the court. The cohabitation agreement comes into force as soon as it is signed by both partners and it can be amended on request, with the agreement of both partners, by your notary.

One of the purposes of the cohabitation agreement is that you can include a power of attorney that authorizes the other partner to represent you in the event that you are temporarily unable to do so. However, it also does not replace a protection mandate .

Finally, having a cohabitation agreement is almost as important as a Will or a protection mandate, as it protects the property and interests of each partner even though they have decided not to marry nor enter in a civil union, and becomes all the more important when children are born of such union. Protect yourself !

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