Conjugal relationships

Current situation

Marriage results in a number of mandatory effects for the spouses:

  • They are both required to contribute to the expenses of the marriage in proportion to their respective means.
  • They are also subject to the measures designed to protect the family residence.
  • If they separate , they must partition the family patrimony, more specifically the residences of the family, the movable property with which they are furnished or decorated and which serves for the use of the household, the motor vehicles used for family travel and the benefits accrued during the marriage under a retirement plan or pension plan. 

The spouses cannot currently avoid any of these obligations.

For de facto spouses, the fact that they live together, for however long, does not create any obligations between them. The obligations that result from marriage, such as support payments to a former spouse, the partition of the family patrimony and the protection of the family residence, do not apply to de facto spouses. 

Proposed changes

The rules on conjugal relationships would be based on the principles of autonomy of will and freedom of contract. The conjugal obligations would be based on mutual consent, except in the case of married spouses on whom the Divorce Act imposes some specific rights and obligations.

The changes would incorporate the possibility of "opting in", for de facto relationships, and "opting out", for marriages. 

De facto union

De facto spouses would be able to opt for rights and obligations by signing a de facto union contract or any other contractual agreement, but no obligations will be imposed on them automatically.

As a result, de facto spouses would not, unless they choose to do so by agreement, owe each other a duty of support, whether during or after their relationship, and would not have to share their property.


Marriage would lead to the creation of rights and obligations for the spouses, as is currently the case. However, they could agree jointly, in a marriage contract, to opt out of some of the rights and obligations. This option would be valid for both new couples and couples that are married when the new legislation comes into force.

The proposed changes would establish the rights and obligations of all spouses, whether married or in a de facto relationship, and whether or not they have a child together. This means that parents who have a child together and also live together would be subject to both the mandatory parental regime and the legal rules governing the marriage or de facto union. 

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