Gouvernement du Québec - Justice

Marriage

MarriageThis document provides information on marriage for the many Quebecers who are already married, or who are planning to marry. It explains the main legal aspects of marriage: the formalities of the marriage ceremony, the rights and duties of the spouses, the family patrimony and the various matrimonial regimes in effect in Québec.

Legally, marriage is governed by Book Two Clicking on this icon will take you to another website. of the Civil Code of Québec, which concerns family law. It is founded on two key principles: equality between the spouses, and free choice of a matrimonial regime. The spouses must

  • choose the family residence together;
  • contribute toward household expenses according to their respective means;
  • jointly assume the debts contracted for the day-to-day needs of the family; and
  • comply with the legal provisions governing partition of the family patrimony if the couple is legally separated or if the marriage is dissolved.

Key points
   • Criteria applying to the intended spouses
      • Legal age for contracting marriage
      • Sex of the spouses
      • Previous civil union
   • Authorized officiants
   • Notice of marriage
   • Place of marriage
   • Spouses' names
   • Marriage outside Québec
Formalities for a religious marriage
   • Before the ceremony
   • During the ceremony
   • After the ceremony
   • Forms and documents required for a religious marriage
Formalities for a civil marriage
   • Before the ceremony
   • During the ceremony
   • After the ceremony
   • Forms and documents required for a civil marriage
Declaration of family residence
Family patrimony
Matrimonial regime
   • Partnership of acquests
   • Separation as to property
   • Community of property
• For more information


Key points

Criteria applying to the intended spouses

Legal age for contracting marriage

In Québec, the legal age for marriage is 16, but people under 18 may marry with consent from their parents or their tutor.

Sex of the spouses

In Québec, two people wishing to make a public commitment to live together may form a civil marriage, whether they are of the same or the opposite sex.

Previous civil union

Two people living together in a civil union may marry each other. The marriage dissolves the civil union while maintaining its civil effects, which are considered to be the effects of marriage from the date of their original civil union.

Authorized officiants

Clerks and deputy clerks of the Superior Court who have been specially designated for that purpose, and notaries authorized to execute notarial acts, may solemnize marriages.

Mayors, members of municipal or borough councils and municipal officers designated by the Minister of Justice may also solemnize marriages, but only within the territory defined in the instrument of designation.

Last, any person authorized by the Minister of Justice to solemnize civil unions may also solemnize a marriage. Some couples may wish to have their marriage solemnized by someone who is significant in their lives, but does not fall into one of the categories defined above. When this is the case, the intended spouses and the person they have chosen as officiant must complete the form entitled Request for the Designation of an Officiant of a Marriage or Civil Union (available in courthouses). The completed form must then be sent, preferably three to four months before the date of the ceremony, to the Direction des services judiciaires of the Ministère de la Justice1.

The designated officiant, after receiving the officially signed authorization, has full responsibility for the legal aspects of the ceremony. The officiant will also receive an information kit.

More information about who is authorized to act as an officiant, and the officiant's obligations and duties, can be found in the document Officiants.

Notice of marriage

Before conducting the marriage ceremony, the officiant must announce the couple’s intention to marry by means of a notice posted for 20 days before the date of the marriage at the place where the ceremony is to be held and at the nearest courthouse. The notice must include the name, domicilary address and date and place of birth of each of the intended spouses; the accuracy of the information must be confirmed by a witness of full age. A dispensation from the requirement of posting notice may be granted for serious reasons.

If the intended spouses are already joined in a civil union, the officiant is not required to post a notice of marriage.

In principle, any person, including a minor, may oppose the marriage for good reasons.

Place of marriage

The marriage ceremony must be held in a place that is open to the public, before an authorized officiant and in the presence of two witnesses. A civil marriage and a religious marriage have the same legal value and impose the same obligations and responsibilities on the spouses.

A civil marriage solemnized by a clerk or deputy clerk of the Superior Court may take place at a courthouse or, with permission, at the place of residence of an intended spouse who is mobility impaired, or in the correctional facility where an intended spouse is confined.

A civil marriage solemnized by an officiant other than a clerk or deputy clerk of the Superior Court may be held in any place chosen by the intended spouses, provided that the place is in keeping with the solemn nature of the ceremony and has a suitable layout. An officiant other than a clerk or deputy clerk may perform a civil marriage in a courthouse if authorized to do so, or at the place of residence of an intended spouse who is mobility impaired.

It is particularly important to note that the location decided on for a marriage celebrated by an officiant appointed by the Minister of Justice cannot be changed since it is specified in the officiant's instrument of designation. The ceremony must necessarily take place in the judicial district indicated.

As a general rule, a religious marriage is celebrated in a place of worship. This is a requirement in the case of a Roman Catholic marriage.

Spouses' names

Both spouses keep their birth names after marriage and continue to exercise their civil rights under that name, i.e. they must use their birth name in contracts, on credit cards, on their driver’s licence, etc.

This rule applies to all spouses domiciled in Québec, even if they were married outside Québec.

However, women married before April 2, 1981 who were already using their husband’s surname before that date may continue to exercise their civil rights under their married name.

Marriage outside Québec

To be valid in Québec, a marriage solemnized outside Québec must comply with

  • the marriage formalities of the place where the ceremony is performed; and
  • the marriage provisions of the Civil Code of Québec respecting, among other things, the legal age for marriage and the prohibited degrees of relationship.

When the newlyweds return to Québec, they are subject to the laws of Québec. It is preferable for them to register the marriage certificate obtained outside Québec in the register of civil status. If the couple did not make a notarial marriage contract before marrying, their marriage will be governed by the default matrimonial regime in Québec, the partnership of acquests.

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Formalities for a religious marriage

Before the ceremony

The intended spouses visit an officiant, set the date for their marriage, and make sure that the officiant is authorized to solemnize marriages. They may ask to see the document granting the authorization.

The officiant verifies the age, identity and civil status of the intended spouses and makes sure they have the consent of their parents or tutor if they are under 18 years of age. The officiant also verifies that the intended spouses are free from any bond of marriage or civil union and that they are not related to a degree that would prohibit marriage. The officiant arranges for the posting of the marriage notice.

During the ceremony

The officiant asks each of the intended spouses if they wish to take the other spouse as their husband or wife; the officiant must receive personal consent from each spouse.

The spouses, the two witnesses and the officiant sign the Declaration of Marriage, and the spouses keep one copy.


Important

The information contained in the Declaration of Marriage will be used to draw up the act of marriage. It is important to make certain that the names of the spouses and other individuals are spelled correctly and that any accents used in the names are included.

After the ceremony

The officiant forwards the Declaration of Marriage to the Directeur de l'état civil who verifies the document and draws up the act of marriage. The Directeur de l'état civil then registers the act of marriage in the register of civil status and gives the spouses, on request, a marriage certificate or a copy of their act of marriage.

More information about religious marriages can be obtained from the priest, rabbi or minister of religion who will be solemnizing the marriage.

Forms and documents required for a religious marriage

The documents required for a religious marriage may vary, depending on the religious denomination concerned. For example, the spouses may be required to provide a baptismal certificate, a birth certificate or a certificate of celibacy. The forms for requesting a birth, marriage or death certificate or a certificate of celibacy can be obtained from the office of the Directeur de l'état civil Clicking on this icon will take you to another website..

Formalities for a civil marriage

Before the ceremony

Couples who wish to be married by a clerk or deputy clerk of the Superior Court must complete the Civil Marriage – General Information form (available from the Service des mariages civils at the courthouse in their district). They must then set a date for the marriage and schedule an appointment with the Service des mariages civils for an interview with the clerk,2 which is when the date and time of the marriage will be confirmed. They must attend this interview with a witness over the age of eighteen, who does not need to be one of the witnesses chosen for the actual marriage ceremony, but must be someone who knows both the intended spouses.

For marriages before an officiant other than a clerk or deputy clerk, the intended spouses must schedule an appointment with the officiant to settle pre-marriage formalities, agree on fees and the method of payment, and finalize such particulars as the time and place of and procedure for the ceremony.

All officiants must verify the identity and the civil status of the intended spouses and ensure that the consent of the parents or the tutor has been obtained if an intended spouse is under 18 years of age. The officiants must also ensure that the intended spouses are not related to a degree that would prohibit marriage and that they are free from any previous bond of marriage or civil union, unless they are already in a civil union and wish to marry each other.


Important

The fees for a civil marriage solemnized by a clerk or deputy clerk of the Superior Court must be paid at the interview with the clerk, in cash or by debit card, credit card, certified cheque, postal order or bank money order made out to the Minister of Finance of Québec.

The fees and the method of payment for a marriage solemnized by any other officiant must be agreed with the officiant before the ceremony.

During the ceremony

The officiant asks each of the intended spouses if they wish to take the other spouse as their husband or wife; the officiant must receive personal consent from each spouse.

The spouses, the two witnesses and the officiant sign the Declaration of Marriage, and the spouses keep one copy.

After the ceremony

The officiant forwards the Declaration of Marriage to the Directeur de l'état civil who verifies the document and draws up the act of marriage. The Directeur de l'état civil then registers the act of marriage in the register of civil status and gives the spouses, on request, a marriage certificate or a copy of their act of marriage.

Forms and documents required for a civil marriage

If the marriage is to be solemnized by a clerk or deputy clerk of the Superior Court, the intended spouses must, during the interview, submit the duly completed and signed Civil Marriage – General Information form for civil marriages, along with their acts of birth. This form is not required if the marriage is solemnized by an officiant who is not a clerk or deputy clerk.

In all instances, though, the intended spouses must submit, to the officiant, the originals of documents showing their identity and civil status. People born in Québec must provide their act of birth or birth certificate, showing the names of their parents. If the intended spouses cannot provide their act of birth, they can find out more about the procedure to follow by calling the client communication centre at the Ministère de la Justice at 1-866-536-5140, option 4, or by sending an E-mail.

Intended spouses who are divorced must provide the officiant with a certificate of divorce or a certified true copy of the decree absolute of divorce signed by an authorized officer; those who have had a previous civil union dissolved must provide an authentic copy of the joint declaration of dissolution executed before a notary or a certified true copy of the dissolution judgment; those whose marriage has been annulled must provide a certified true copy of the judgment annulling the marriage.

Intended spouses who have been widowed must provide the officiant with the death certificate of their deceased spouse in the form of a copy of an act, a certificate or an attestation. The forms needed to apply for these documents are available at the office of the Directeur de l'état civil. Proof of death may also be a record of civil status, a letter issued by a consulate, a sworn statement or other equivalent proof.


Important

Photocopies will not be accepted.

Original documents will be returned to their owners.

Documents written in a language other than French or English must be accompanied by an official translation, which is a translation prepared by a member of the Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec Clicking on this icon will take you to another website., accompanied by a sworn statement from the translator that the translation is accurate.


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Declaration of family residence

Neither spouse may dispose of a family residence (whether a main or secondary residence) without the consent of the other spouse. The same applies to the furnishings and decorative elements in the residence that are for the general use of the family. A spouse who disregards this obligation could be sued for damages. This restriction, however, has no effect on the right of ownership.

A spouse who has not consented to the sale or donation of a family residence can have the transaction annulled if a declaration of family residence has been registered at the bureau de la publicité des droits Clicking on this icon will take you to another website. in which the residence is situated. A declaration of family residence can be made by either spouse, or jointly by both. A spouse who makes an individual declaration is under no obligation to inform the other spouse.

Family patrimony

The family patrimony consists of

  • the residences used by the family or the rights which give the family the use of them;
  • the household furniture used to furnish or decorate the residences;
  • the motor vehicles used for family transportation;
  • the rights accrued in a retirement plan during the marriage or civil union; and
  • the earnings registered during the marriage under the Act respecting the Québec Pension Plan Clicking on this icon will take you to another website. or equivalent programs.

The following property is excluded from the family patrimony:

  • property that was a gift or a bequest to one of the spouses either before or during the marriage or civil union;
  • any increase in the value of such property during the marriage or civil union;
  • property used exclusively by one of the spouses (computer, musical instrument, artwork, etc.);
  • businesses and farms (except the residential portion);
  • cash and bank accounts;
  • savings bonds, treasury bonds, shares and other investments (except RRSPs);
  • profit-sharing plans;
  • supplementary pension plans for high-income earners; and
  • non-registered annuity contracts.

Any property that is not included in the family patrimony is administered and divided in keeping with the rules of the spouses’ matrimonial regime.

The rules on family patrimony apply automatically to all married couples, and spouses cannot waive rights in the family patrimony before or during the marriage. They can, however, waive their rights when the patrimony is partitioned. For more information, see the document Family Patrimony.

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Matrimonial regime

A matrimonial regime is a system of rules that governs the economic relationship between spouses, and between the spouses and third parties. The regime determines who owns the property and who administers it during the marriage. Most importantly, the matrimonial regime determines how property that is not included in the family patrimony is partitioned when a marriage is dissolved following a divorce, death or legal separation, or when a couple makes a change in matrimonial regime.

Couples planning to marry must choose a matrimonial regime, and it is up to the partners to weigh the pros and cons of each regime and make the best choice for their situation and plans. It is important to remember that the matrimonial regime affects only property excluded from the family patrimony and takes effect as soon as the marriage is solemnized.

The intended spouses can choose one of three matrimonial regimes: partnership of acquests, separation as to property, and community of property. Subject to the provisions of the Civil Code of Québec, the couple can create its own regime by stipulating, for instance, that only part of the property is to be considered as acquests, while the remaining property will be subject to the rules governing separation as to property.

Spouses who do not make a marriage contract will automatically be governed by the legal regime of partnership of acquests. Their choice of any other matrimonial regime must be formalized in a notarial contract.

Partnership of acquests

Nearly half of all couples marry without a notarial marriage contract. Their union is thus automatically governed by the regime of partnership of acquests. This regime, under which each spouse owns and administers his or her own private property and acquests, is the legal regime in force since July 1, 1970.

The property owned by each spouse before the marriage is considered to be private property. The following is also private property:

  • property acquired during the marriage by succession or gift;
  • property acquired during the marriage to replace private property, as well as any indemnity under an insurance contract on the private property;
  • the rights or benefits devolved to either spouse as a subrogated holder or specified beneficiary under a retirement contract or plan or any other annuity or personal insurance policy;
  • clothing, personal papers, wedding rings, and instruments required for the spouse’s work;
  • the right to support payments, a disability pension or other benefits of the same kind.

As a general rule, property acquired during the marriage is considered to be an acquest and the value of the acquests is divided equally between the spouses if the regime is dissolved. Acquests include wages, investment and work income, and property acquired with that money. Unless property can be clearly established as the private property of one of the spouses, the property is considered to be an acquest.

Each spouse administers his or her own private property and acquests and is solely responsible for any debts contracted, except debts contracted for the day-to-day needs of the family, for which both spouses are responsible.

One spouse can refuse the acquests of the other on dissolution of the matrimonial regime, for instance, if the other spouse’s debts exceed the assets. However, this refusal is not reciprocal; the other spouse remains entitled to the acquests of the first spouse.

Intended spouses who wish their marriage to be governed by the regime of partnership of acquests do not need a notarial contract. Couples with special requirements, however, can have a contract drawn up by a notary to adjust the rules of the regime to their specific needs.

Separation as to property

The regime of separation as to property requires a notarial marriage contract.

Under this regime, each spouse remains the exclusive owner of his or her property, administers the property alone and assumes responsibility for his or her debts, subject, however, to the legal provisions respecting the family patrimony, the protection of the family residence and furnishings, and the spouses’ joint responsibility with regard to debts contracted for the family’s day-to-day needs. For example, even if one of the spouses is the sole owner of the family residence, he or she cannot dispose of it without the other spouse’s authorization.

If the regime is dissolved, the spouses retain their own property, providing they can prove ownership. Gifts made in the marriage contract can increase a spouse’s share; however, gifts made by the spouses to each other in the event of death (also called gifts mortis causa) are automatically cancelled by divorce or annulment, whereas gifts given during their lifetime (gifts inter vivos) can be cancelled or reduced by the court.

Couples who choose the regime of separation as to property should purchase all durable goods, particularly immovables (buildings and land), in undivided co-ownership. This is done by having the names of both spouses written into each notarial act of ownership or purchase whenever the value of a transaction warrants it.

Community of property

Although the regime of community of property has not been the legal regime in Québec since 1970 and has fallen out of favour, couples can still choose this matrimonial regime by notarial contract and adapt it to their particular situation.

Couples who married without a marriage contract before 1970 continue to be governed by the provisions of the regime of community of property, unless they have since entered into a marriage contract.

Under this regime, the property of the spouses is divided into three categories: community property, private property and the wife’s reserved property (her income, property acquired with that income, etc.). The husband administers the community property and his own private property, while the wife administers her own private property and her reserved property.

The community property consists of

  • all the movable property owned by the spouses at the time of the marriage;
  • joint assets (movable and immovable) acquired and paid for by the spouses during the marriage; and
  • income from the husband’s private property and the proceeds from the husband’s work income.

The private property of a spouse consists of

  • immovables acquired before the marriage;
  • gifts received from the other spouse under the marriage contract;
  • gifts received from the other spouse during the marriage;
  • legacies3 received from the spouse’s ascendants (father, mother, etc); and
  • compensation received by the spouse as damages for bodily or moral injury.

On dissolution of the regime, the community property and the wife’s reserved property are divided equally between the two spouses and each spouse retains his or her private property. The wife can keep her reserved property by waiving her right to the community property and, as in the case of partnership of acquests, the wife can refuse the partition of the community property if the debts of the community outweigh the assets. However, that option is not available to the husband.


Important

To simplify the procedure when a matrimonial regime is dissolved or modified, when a spouse dies, or when a marriage breaks up, each spouse should confirm all transactions in writing and keep important papers such as invoices and documents proving ownership. This is especially important in the case of a regime of separation as to property.

A matrimonial regime or a marriage contract can be changed or modified at any time, provided both spouses consent and agree to sign a new contract before a notary. It is not necessary to have the court approve the change or to issue public notices for the benefit of creditors.

The new matrimonial regime takes effect on the day the contract is signed and is not retroactive.

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1. 1200, route de l’Église, 7e étage, Québec (Québec) G1V 4M1.
2. Some courthouses may have different practices. Inquiries should be made at the courthouse concerned.
3. Gifts made under a will or testament.

For more information

Conjugal institutions:
     • De facto unions
     • Civil Unions
Persons authorized to solemnize civil unions and the obligations of officiants:
    • Officiants
    • Registre des célébrants Clicking on this icon will take you to another website.
What constitutes family patrimony and the rules for partition of the family patrimony:
    • Family Patrimony
Protection provided by a declaration of family residence:
    • Family residence: protection and declaration Icône indiquant que l'utilisateur sera conduit à un autre site. (In French)
Cancelling the registration of a declaration of family residence:
    • Family residence: Cancelling the registration Icône indiquant que l'utilisateur sera conduit à un autre site. (In French)
Registering a notice of marriage contract:
    • Publish a notice of marriage contract Icône indiquant que l'utilisateur sera conduit à un autre site. (In French)
Declarations of birth, parental authority and the rules of filiation:
    • Filiation
Fees for the solemnization of a civil union by a court clerk:
    • Tariff of Court Costs
Declarations of marriage and how to obtain a certificate of marriage a copy of an act of marriage:
    • Directeur de l'état civil Clicking on this icon will take you to another website.
The addresses and telephone numbers of Québec courthouses:
     • Courthouses
Which judicial district a municipality is located in:
     • Search for a judicial district
Laws relating to marriage:
     • Marriage Clicking on this icon will take you to another website. (Title One of Book Two of the Civil Code of Québec)
     • Rules respecting the solemnization of civil marriages and civil unions
     • Act respecting the Québec Pension Plan Clicking on this icon will take you to another website.
Forms that relate to marriage:
     • Notice of Civil Marriage (SJ-218A)
     • Request for the Designation of an Officiant of a Marriage or Civil Union (SJ-893A)
     • Civil Marriage - General Information (SJ-217A)

Should you wish to

Contact a notary:
    • Chambre des notaires Clicking on this icon will take you to another website.
Obtain an official document attesting civil status (birth, death, etc.):
    • Directeur de l'état civil Clicking on this icon will take you to another website.
Have a document translated into French or English from a language other than French or English:
    • Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec Icône indiquant que l'utilisateur sera conduit à un autre site.
Publish a notice of marriage contract or a change to a marriage contract or matrimonial regime:
    • Registre des droits personnels et réels mobiliers 
Publish and protect your rights in respect of immovable property:
    • Registre foncier du Québec Icône indiquant que l'utilisateur sera conduit à un autre site. (registry offices)

The content of this document is strictly informative and has no legal value.

If you find some of the information difficult to understand, do not hesitate to contact us. Please note, however, that we cannot interpret the information to apply it to a specific situation.

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Latest update: November 29, 2013



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