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What is the purpose of family patrimony?

Family patrimony was added to the Civil Code of Québec in 1989. The goal was to put an end to injustices sometimes suffered by the financially weaker spouse, especially when the spouses had chosen the regime of separation of property. Family patrimony rules attempt to foster economic equality between married spouses and, since June 24, 2002, civil union spouses. The effect of this law is to provide for the equal partition (i.e., division) of the value of the property that makes up the family patrimony when the couple separates.

Property that is part of the family patrimony is not co-owned by married or civil union spouses. Instead, the law gives the spouses the right to share in its value when the matrimonial regime is dissolved.

The court may decide on an unequal distribution for exceptional reasons. Civil union spouses may also make this choice in a notarized transaction contract.

To whom do the rules of family patrimony apply?
All legally married and civil union couples are subject to the rules of family patrimony regardless of: 1) the date of the marriage or civil union; 2) the nature of the matrimonial regime or civil union; 3) whether or not a marriage or civil union contract exists; 4) whether or not there are children.

The following couples are not subject to the partition of the family patrimony:

  • common law couples
  • couples who renounced the family patrimony before January 1, 1991
  • couples who filed a petition for divorce, separation from bed and board or annulment of marriage in court before May 15, 1989
  • couples who ceased living together before May 15, 1989, and settled their separation by way of written agreement or otherwise