Marie-Josée Gauvin

By Marie-Josée Gauvin

November 2, 2017


Common-Law Partners: Tips for a Peaceful Separation

Article revised on 14 November 2018

A separation is never something we look forward to going through. The experience can be even more stressful if children are involved or if the couple doesn’t have a cohabitation contract. In all cases, however, the best solution is to work out an agreement! My Legal Access Insurance team has put together some information to help a separation go more smoothly based on your situation.

When children are involved

If you have children, then as parents you must decide together who will keep the children and work out the child support payments, if necessary. Remember that both parents are equal in the eyes of the law. They therefore have the same rights with regard to their children. Children born of a common-law union benefit from the same rights as those born of married couples.

If you need help to come to an agreement on the shared custody of the child, you can call on the services of an accredited family mediator without incurring all the expenses. For parents with dependent children, the government assumes the cost for the expenses for a certain number of meetings with a mediator.

If you can’t come to an agreement regarding custody after meeting with a mediator, a court will have to resolve the dispute, with the decision being made in the children’s best interest.

When you have a cohabitation contract

Refer to the contract to separate your respective personal property. Otherwise, each common-law partner keeps his or her own personal property, even if these were acquired during the union or were used by the family.

When you acquired property together

If you did acquire property together, you will have to come to an agreement on how it will be divided.

For example, if you bought a home together, decide together who will buy out the other’s share or agree to putting it up for sale.

If only one spouse owns the residence, he or she keeps it. The other spouse has no claim on the home and can no longer live in the home if the owner asks him or her to leave.

If you don’t think the property was divided fairly, you may have a right to recourse, for example if you suspect your former partner profited financially at your expense. It’s important to consult a lawyer regarding this matter to assess your options.

If you are unable to settle the division of your property out of court, you can turn to family mediation. If you are still unable to come to an agreement, you must appeal to a court to settle all disputed matters.

When you share a rental unit

If both your names appear on the lease, decide together who will stay and who will leave. You will also have to have the lease modified by coming to an agreement with the landlord or by assigning your lease.

If only one of you signed the lease, the signatory may ask the other person to leave. If the signatory spouse decides to leave the dwelling, the other spouse may stay in the dwelling if they lived together for at least six months. In this case, you must notify the landlord within two months of the end of co-habitation.

There are exceptions, for example if you have children and one of the partners becomes the legal guardian.

Obviously, each situation is different and can have its own share of exceptions. Never hesitate to hire a lawyer or mediator to find out what your rights are, help you or represent you if you are not comfortable with the process or if matters get too complicated for you.

It doesn’t only happen to others!

Before you find yourself in this type of situation, protect yourself with Legal Access Insurance, which can prove to be very useful in a multitude of legal situations, including separations. This comprehensive coverage is available to all La Capitale General Insurance clients for little more than $1 a week.


Additional information
Justice Québec – Separation and divorce
Éducaloi – Separation and divorce
Éducaloi – When Common-Law Couples Separate: Agreeing on Important Issues

Learn more about the benefits of adding La Capitale Legal Access Insurance to your coverage!

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