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There are three types of conjugality in Québec: marriage, civil union and common-law marriage.

Marriage can unite a man and woman as well as two people of the same sex as well.

In Québec, you must be at least 16 years of age to get married. However, anyone under the age of 18 must have the consent of their parents or guardian.

Women who get married keep their maiden name.

The procedures for getting married are simple. The future bride and groom can opt for:

  • a religious ceremony performed by a minister of religion authorized by the Minister responsible for civil status
  • a civil ceremony performed by a notary or any other person designated by the Minister of Justice.

Both religious and civil officials must be authorized to perform wedding ceremonies by the Ministère de la Justice du Québec (Ministry of justice). Both options are considered equally valid and the spouses are subject to the same commitments and responsibilities. In all cases, the law provides for:

  • the full equality of both partners
  • the existence of a joint family patrimony, including residences
  • household furniture, automobiles used for family travel and certain private pension funds
  • joint selection of the family home
  • the contribution of each spouse to household expenses
  • joint liability for debts incurred to meet everyday household needs.

In Québec, a marriage can only be legally terminated by a divorce granted by a civil court. When spouses divorce, the value of the family patrimony is divided equally between them. The repudiation of one spouse by the other has no legal effect. Polygamy and polyandry are illegal.

Matrimonial regimes

Legally, there are three types of matrimonial regimes: partnership of acquests, separation as to property and community of property. Except for the partnership of acquests that applies automatically to couples without a marriage contract, the other regimes entail the signing of a marriage contract in the presence of a notary. The selected regime goes into effect as soon as the marriage is celebrated.

It is always possible to change matrimonial regimes or marriage contract and to modify one or the other at any time. Both spouses must consent and obtain the services of a notary. The new settlement goes into effect when the contract is signed.

Civil union

Two persons may also contract a civil union. The civil union was designed in Québec for the benefit of couples of the opposite or same sex who wish to publicly commit to a life together and to respect the rights and obligations of that union. It is equivalent to marriage.

Common-law marriages

In Québec society, it is very common for two people to commit to a life together without getting married or contracting a civil union. This type of union is referred to as a common-law marriage.

Common-law marriages are recognized regardless of the sex of the partners involved. The Civil Code of Québec does not confer any particular status on common-law couples. By signing a cohabitation contract, preferably before a notary or lawyer, common-law partners may obtain certain guarantees offered by marriage. This legal document sets out the conditions that they agree to respect. Any children born of such a union are protected by law and entitled to the same rights as those of children born to a married couple.

In case of death, the surviving spouse is not considered the legal heir. It is strongly recommended that common-law spouses who wish to bequeath their goods to one another prepare a notarized will. The surviving spouse may also receive life insurance benefits only if he or she has been designated as the beneficiary by the deceased spouse.


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Last modification : 2010-02-09
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