A civil union is a type of legal relationship between couples in Quebec. In a civil union, couples of the same or opposite sex officially promise to live together and respect their rights and obligations under this type of relationship.
The civil union was created in Quebec in 2002. Its purpose was to allow same-sex couples to enter into a legal relationship so they could have the same benefits as married couples. At that time, same-sex couples weren’t allowed to get married. Although the definition of marriage was changed in 2005 to let same-sex couples get married in Canada, civil union still exists in Quebec.
Similarities With Marriage
Civil unions and marriages look very similar. As in the case of married spouses, civil-union spouses
- can’t be married to or in a civil union with another person,
- must fully agree to the civil union,
- can’t be in a civil union with a relative who is too closely related,
- enter into their union in the same way as married couples, and
- have the same rights and obligations as married couples.
Civil-union spouses can also sign a contract stating which rules apply to their union. These rules are called a “regime.”
- The contract is called a “civil-union contract” instead of a “marriage contract.”
- The regime is called a “civil-union regime” instead of a “matrimonial regime.”
After the spouses enter into their civil union, the Directeur de l’état civil (registrar of civil status) prepares an “act of civil union,” which is the official document proving the civil union.
Differences Between Civil Union and Marriage
At Least 18 Years Old
To enter into a civil union, both people must be at least 18 years old.
Only in Quebec
Civil unions entered into in Quebec are valid in Quebec. However, they might not be recognized elsewhere in Canada or in another country. It’s best to contact a lawyer or notary to find out how your civil union might be viewed somewhere else if you plan to move. For example, you could be faced with unexpected problems if you break up or your partner dies.
Civil-union couples who want to adopt a child from another country might not be able to if that country requires the adopting couple to be married.
The uncertainty around the recognition of a civil union outside Quebec is probably the major difference between a civil union and a marriage.
A civil union can end in different ways:
- The couple doesn’t want to live together anymore.
- If they don’t have any dependent children, they can end their civil union by signing a joint declaration (written document) in front of a notary. They can settle all the consequences of their breakup in this joint declaration.
- If they have dependent children or if they can’t agree on the consequences of their breakup in a joint declaration, they can end their civil union through a court decision. It’s not a divorce: it’s a legal procedure that ends the civil union. You should contact a lawyer if this is your situation.
- Marriage ends a civil union. If a civil-union couple gets married, their civil union ends automatically, and no other formalities are needed.
- A civil union ends when one of the spouses dies.