Recent studies by the Chamber of Notaries testify to the widespread misperceptions among common-law couples.  Many people think that after a certain period of common life, they are married according to the law. However, they are still single!  At least, from a legal point of view…. Because yes, in recent years, traditional marriage has been losing popularity and couples are prioritizing common-law relationships.  Indeed, an unmarried union brings certain advantages by avoiding legal complications in the event of divorce or separation.

What is meant by common-law partner in law

According to the Civil Code of Quebec, there are 4 statuses: single, married, divorced and widowed.  Strangely enough, common-law partners are considered single if we rely on the law (if they have never been married or civilly united before, of course). Ironically, too, if you are single, you may live together and this results in becoming a common-law partner. Even if the Civil Code does not recognize your status, some laws may include the term common-law spouse in their operation (e. g. welfare, SAAQ, Régie des Rentes, and income taxes).

The problem is that common-law partners do not have protection similar to marriage such as family property, matrimonial and other rights and obligations.  Everything is done amicably.  For example, if one of the common-law partners dies, the surviving spouse does not automatically receive benefits related to the sharing of family patrimony or the right to inherit, because from a legal point of view, he or she is single.

Common-law partner patrimony

Is it possible for common-law partners to inherit their spouse if a death occurs? Legally, without a will, or any other agreement, no.  However, since it is possible to do so on an informal basis, common-law partners can write a will and include everything related to the estate.  If the spouses really want to leave something to each other, it is still strongly recommended to make a will.  It should not be forgotten that since they are considered single, without a will, the living spouse obtains nothing, despite the length of the union.

If a common-law couple does not have children, the property of the deceased will be divided between the parents and siblings of the deceased (Civil code of Quebec).  If the couple has children, the entire inheritance will go to the children.  So, unless a will specifies it, a child is a legal heir even before the common-law spouse.

Separation of common-law partners

Since common-law partners are seen as single, their separation does not involve any legal proceedings such as a divorce.  However, if they have had a child, there will be the child support to be paid because the child born of a common-law relationship has the same rights as a child born during a marriage.


Although common-law status is not recognized by the Civil Code of Quebec, it has grown in recent years with the loss of popularity of marriage. This status, even if the partners are in theory single, implies certain rights and obligations for each of them, which are, however, not equivalent to the rights and obligations of married couples. However, if as a common-law partner you really want to share your property according to your wishes, consider making your will and ensure that your last wishes are respected.


Contact us now!