Civil marriage or Civil union - the differences

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Often mixed at first glance, civil marriage and civil union each have their differences.  However, in Quebec, both types of unions have the same rights and obligations.  However, is there a better choice for a couple wishing to show their love?


Almost everyone is familiar with the term “marriage”.  On the other hand, civil marriage is done according to the law and not what the church mentions.  So what about civil union?  The latter was introduced in Quebec in June 2002 in the Civil Code.  Basically, civil union was created to allow same-sex couples to have the same rights and obligations as heterosexual couples with family rights.

Although same-sex marriage (gay marriage) was allowed in Canada in 2005, civil marriage and civil union are now two options for couples to unite and benefit from the matrimonial regime and family patrimony as well as inheritance in the event of the death of a spouse.

Beware of differences!

First, age plays an important role.  For civil marriage, the 2 future spouses must be at least 16 years old and have a court authorization to proceed with the marriage.  If they are at least 18 years old, no authorization is required!  In a civil union, the couple must be at least 18 years old.  The court cannot give permission in this case.

Also, a civil union can be dissolute before a notary under certain conditions, by contract, which is not the case of a marriage.

Civil union status is not necessarily recognized abroad, unlike marriage, which is a general and universal term.  If you stay in Quebec, it will not be a problem, but it will be different if you decide to settle in another province and you risk taking your civil union rights.

Other Procedures

Apart from the age of the spouses, international recognition and dissolution / divorce, civil marriage and civil union have their similitude.

For the rest, i. e. the procedure and conditions to be respected, it is essentially the same thing.  Here, both spouses are looking for a celebrant, their union is celebrated, and then they are united by the bonds of marriage or civil union.

About the matrimonial regime, legal or conventional, for marriage or union, the couple can choose what suits them.

The matrimonial regime in question (if conventional, separation as to property) will be indicated in the marriage contract or civil union contract.  However, the contract must be signed in front of a notary.  Moreover, this is one of the reasons why choosing a notary as officiant can offer you an advantage, because the notary will inform you of all the procedures, and your rights and obligations as a spouse!

Conclusion and best decision

So, in the end, you saw how civil marriage and civil union have essentially the same advantages.  However, what is the best choice?  Even if in both cases you have access to a matrimonial regime and other privileges, if you intend to settle abroad, perhaps you should get married.  But in any case, consult a notary to be better informed.


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