The matrimonial regime of partnership of acquests applies automatically to all marriages in Quebec since July 1, 1970 if the spouses did not choose a matrimonial regime in a notarized marriage contract.
Property Included in a Partnership of Acquests
In a partnership of acquests, the value of the property accumulated during the marriage is partitioned or divided when the marriage is over, but it does not include the spouses’ private property. Therefore, a partnership of acquests is made up of two separate categories of property:
- private property
- acquests, which is property acquired during the marriage other than private property
Each spouse can own property that belongs to him or her alone, and it is called private property. The value of each spouse’s private property is not partitioned or divided when the regime ends.
Here are some examples of private property:
Property acquired before the marriage
Frank’s $10,000 in savings, which he put away before he got married
Inherited property Rental building that Gina’s mother left to her when she died
Property received as a gift
State-of-the-art digital camera that Annie’s family gave her as a gift
Clothing, personal papers, wedding rings, awards, diplomas, instruments needed for work
Taxi and permit Ralph needs for his job as a taxi driver
Right to support, disability payments or other similar benefits
Support payments that Julie receives from her first husband–these support payments are considered private property for the purposes of her second divorce
Insurance payments relating to private property
Insurance payment Luke received after the wedding rings his grandmother left to him in her will were stolen
Money received as compensation for physical or psychological injury
Money John received as compensation for injuries after he fell down a flight of stairs
Rights or benefits received under a retirement plan, annuity or insurance policy (for example, life insurance, health insurance or disability insurance)
Life-insurance payment Mustafa received after his father died
Income received from a business that is the private property of one spouse, if the income is reinvested in the business
Jenna inherited her sister’s print shop. The business is private property because her sister left it to her in her will. The income she used from the print shop to buy a new printer is private property.
Property acquired to replace private property and any related insurance payments
Eric owned a duplex before he got married (private property), and it was destroyed by fire. The insurance proceeds for rebuilding the duplex are private property.
Property acquired mostly with private property
Marisa bought a piece of land for $60,000 while she was married. To pay for it, she used
- $40,000 that she inherited (private property), and
- $20,000 from money she earned from her job (acquest).
The land is private property.
However, part of the value of the land will be added to the value of the acquests because an acquest was used to pay for part of the purchase price.
“Acquests” is the name given to property the spouses accumulate during the marriage. The value of the acquests is partitioned or divided at the end of the regime.
- Acquests include all property that is not private property according to the law. For example,
- Salaries and investment income the spouses receive during the marriage,
- Income from a business belonging to one of the spouses that is not reinvested in the business,
- As well as property acquired mainly using acquests.
Therefore, the property and debts each spouse had BEFORE the marriage are private property. However, the increase or decrease in the value of this property during the marriage is part of the acquests.
Caroline had $5,000 invested with the bank before she got married. Ten years after she got married, her investment is worth $6,200 ($1,200 in interest earned during her 10-year marriage). The $1,200 in interest earned during the marriage is included in her acquests and must therefore be partitioned or divided when she gets divorced. The capital she invested ($5,000) is private property because it belonged to her before she got married.
Spouses’ Rights and Powers During the Marriage
Under the regime of partnership of acquests, each spouse has the freedom to manage and use his or her income, private property and acquests. Therefore, each spouse is responsible for his or her own debts, unless the purpose of the debt was to pay for the family’s everyday needs (e.g., maintaining the family home, clothes for the children, groceries, etc.).
There is an exception to this rule: one spouse needs the consent of the other before giving away valuable acquests. For example, if a spouse wants to give his rental building to a family member (he used his salary to buy the rental building), he needs his spouse’s consent. If she doesn’t consent, she can ask the court to cancel the gift.
Also, no matter what the matrimonial regime of the spouses, there are exceptions concerning the family residence and the debts taken on to meet the family’s needs.
Partition of Property at the End of the Regime
The property can be partitioned or divided if the spouses divorce, if one of them dies or if they change their matrimonial regime.
Spouses must begin by partitioning or dividing the family property, which is officially called the “family patrimony.”
Each spouse is allowed to keep the value of any private property not included in the family patrimony. Next, they must calculate the value of each spouse’s acquests. The calculations can be quite complicated because there are several steps:
- prepare a list of private property and acquests
- take any related debts into account
- determine the compensation, that is, adjustments allowing spouses to recover the value of any private property used to buy acquests and vice versa
Karl used his salary, which is an acquest, to pay over $10,000 in parking tickets. At the end of the marriage, an adjustment will be made to increase the value of the acquests because Karl caused their value to decrease during the marriage by using his salary to pay for the parking tickets. The adjustment will balance things out by preventing one spouse from using acquests to increase the value of his private property and decrease the value of the acquests that will be divided at the end of the marriage.
These steps must be carried out before the property is partitioned or divided. You might therefore need to meet with a legal professional to discuss how your property will be partitioned.
Each spouse is free to accept or refuse the partition of the value of the acquests, no matter what the other spouse decides to do. At the end of the marriage, the spouses can also arrive at an agreement on how the property will be divided. However, when a marriage ends after one spouse dies, if the surviving spouse refuses the partition, the deceased’s heirs can’t accept the partition of the acquests on behalf of the deceased. If the spouses aren’t able to reach an agreement, they can get help from a mediator. Otherwise, they can go to court.
Important! A spouse might not be allowed to receive her share of the acquests in these cases:
- She sold, gave away, hid or misused her acquests or her spouse’s acquests with the intention of keeping them out of the partition.
- She wasted acquests.
- She managed the acquests in bad faith.
- She interfered in the management of her spouse’s acquests after the divorce or the death of her spouse.