Families and Couples

The Legal Consequences of Marriage


Marriage is a contract between two people who want to spend the rest of their lives together. It is a social and family event that can be very emotional, but there are also legal consequences for the spouses while they are married and when the marriage ends.

The information in this article also applies to couples in a civil union in Quebec.

Spouses Keep Their Names

A spouse usually keeps her own name after she is married. She must exercise all of her civil rights, like signing a contract, using the name on her birth certificate.

However, she is allowed to introduce herself using her spouse’s name. She can also add her spouse’s name to her own name. This was a common thing to do in the past. But a person’s official name is the name on her birth certificate. If she wants to use her spouse’s name officially, she must ask for a name change, which is only allowed for a serious reason.

Any woman married before April 2, 1981 who introduced herself under her husband’s name and signed documents using his name can continue to do this.

Spouses Have Duties

Spouses owe each other respect, fidelity and assistance. They must live together, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they have to live under the same roof. For example, they can have different homes but still share long-term goals, including common interests, having a family and a loving relationship, etc.

Together, the spouses manage the family, exercise parental authority over the children, and provide the care the children need.

They also choose the family residence together. They both help out with chores and family expenses, such as housing, clothing and food, in proportion to what they are able to do. The spouses can contribute in different ways. For example, one spouse can pay for expenses using her salary, and the other spouse can do housework and look after the children.

Acting on Behalf of the Couple

Being married means that one spouse alone can act on behalf of both of them for everyday family matters. This avoids both spouses being involved in every family decision, for example, a routine decision concerning the children or what to do about a leaky pipe.

Legal Protections

Marriage gives the spouses certain legal protections during and at the end of the marriage: