Common-law partnership agreement

Document that provides for certain provisions regarding your cohabitation, the children you have or will have, and the property you own or may acquire.

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You are considering living together with your partner, maybe you have already been living with your common-law spouse for a few years, you do not want to get married or have a civil union, but you still want to have some legal protection.

Now might be the time to consider choosing a legal framework for your relationship.

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Without getting married or having a civil union, you can make a common-law contract that includes certain provisions regarding your cohabitation, the children you have or will have, and the property you own or may acquire.

The common-law contract is a notarized document that allows the partners to establish their matrimonial regime on a contractual and consensual basis.

The main purpose of such a contract is to organize the economic relationship between common-law partners. This contract also determines who will be the owner of property acquired during the common-law relationship.

If the partners choose the regime of the partnership of acquets, they remain the owners of property acquired before the start of the common-law relationship, these are considered "separate property". The property acquired during the common-law relationship belongs to the partner who purchased it. If it is impossible to determine the ownership of the property, it belongs to both partners in equal shares. In the event of the end of the common-law relationship or the death of one of the partners, the partner who keeps the property must reimburse a portion of its value to the other partner (compensation).

The regime of "separation of property" does not create any partnership or community between common-law partners. They remain the owners of property acquired before and during the common-law relationship.

It should be noted that common-law partners are not subject to the provisions of the "family patrimony" law, but they can choose, through a contractual agreement, to have these provisions apply to their relationship.

The common-law contract could also include the following elements:

  • The date when the common-law partners started living together;
  • A description of the assets of each partner at the beginning of the common-law relationship. This inventory, prepared by the partners, will be attached to the common-law contract and will provide a balance sheet of the assets and liabilities of each partner. It can be used to settle the matrimonial regime in the event of death or separation. Couples who are already living together and have acquired property together can assign a value to these assets and designate them as jointly held, regardless of the chosen matrimonial regime. This balance sheet could be accompanied by a declaration stating that the partners have informed each other of their financial situation (income, investments, etc.);
  • Economic clauses, for example, do the partners intend to have a joint bank account, exclusive bank accounts for each partner, or a joint bank account only for household expenses (residence, car, food, etc.)? Will the partners have a joint credit card or exclusive credit cards? How do they plan to manage their budget? Do the partners need to maintain a life insurance policy for the benefit of the other partner (throughout their life, until the end of the common-law relationship, until the children leave, until the final payment of the house, etc.);
  • Provisions regarding the name of the children and the values that the partners intend to transmit to their children. The issue of child support can also be addressed in the common-law contract, covering children born from previous marriages, civil unions, or common-law relationships, as well as children from the current union (care, education, sports or cultural activities, etc.);
  • The common-law contract can also include provisions regarding child custody and spousal support. It could include provisions on the contributions of the partners to household expenses and inter vivos gifts (household furniture, for example). It could also mention rules for the administration of the common residence, with rights of first refusal or use in case of separation;
  • Mechanisms to deal with a breakup, for example, both partners may have to resort to mediation if a breakup occurs.

Notarized common-law contracts can be used in court in case of a breakup to have the clauses recognized and enforced by the court in the event of disputes and conflicts between separated common-law partners. Quebec courts have repeatedly enforced such contracts and required separated common-law partners to respect the clauses.

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