What are the differences between civil marriage and civil union?

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You feel ready to engage in a life together with your soul mate, but you do not know for sure what to choose between civil marriage and civil union? Your notary marriage celebrant and wedding officiant will advise you. What are the main differences between the two options? What are their specific benefits?

Brief History

While the civil marriage has been celebrated since the very beginnings of modern times, the civil union is only a recent creation, stemming from the newest needs in the field of family law. More specifically, it was about the need to allow same-sex couples to enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples. As a result, the concept of civil union has been introduced in the Civil Code of Quebec. Yet, just 3 years later, civil marriage became accessible to gay couples as well.  Now both civil marriage and civil union are two available possibilities for both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

Differences between civil marriage and civil union

These two forms of engagement are almost identical in terms of ceremony conditions and the union procedure. This way, what the future spouses must do is choose a marriage celebrant in Montreal and sign the declaration of marriage or civil union at the end of the ceremony.

After that, the declaration will be sent by the celebrant to the Director of Civil Status for registration in the Register of Civil Status of Quebec. What the couple must also do after this is to apply for a certificate or a copy of a marriage certificate or a civil union certificate. In both cases, they can choose a civil marriage or a civil union and also their matrimonial regime.

Like any official document, the marriage or the civil union contract is only valid if it’s dated and signed before the notary. In any case, the notary is the only person who can best inform you about everything concerning the economic and the legal implications of the marriage or of the civil union. Both types of contracts give the same rights and obligations for all that is related to the division of assets, to the contribution to the household expenses and to the inheritance.

Yet, there are a few differences that you should consider if you choose one option or the other:


Marriage represents the commitment of two people who are at least 16 years old, and have obtained the authorization of the Court to become spouses.

Civil union is the commitment of two individuals who are at least 18 years of age who freely and clearly express their consent of living together.

Separation of couples without children

Although no one likes to think about a possible break up, it is better to be prepared for anything. If two people with a civil union contract who do not have children wish to separate, they can just appear before a notary and simply sign a declaration of dissolution of the civil union.

Validity abroad

Before choosing a civil union for your couple, you should know that it is valid in Quebec so you may not be recognized as an official couple abroad as well.

Regardless of your particular situation and of your particular desires, call on a notary in order to make sure you make the most informed decision.

Me Leopold Lincà, notary and weddding officiant/marriage celebrant in Montreal, welcomes you at his office to explain in detail all the legal subtleties of the two types of contracts.

We offer our services in the following regions: Montreal, Laval, Longueuil, South Shore and North Shore.


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