Common Law Spouse

Unmarried Couples


Living together does not give a right to share in property nor does it give a right to spousal support. Unlike other provinces, partners in Quebec who are not married do not acquire rights to support, even after living together for a certain period of time or because of having children.

In January 2013, in a case referred to in the media as Eric vs. Lola, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed in a 5 to 4 majority that it is not unconstitutional for Quebec to treat unmarried couples and married couples differently.



This means that in Quebec couples that are not legally married and that have not signed a contract of cohabitation, cannot claim spousal support from each other, nor any automatic right to the assets of the other partner. There is no the family patrimony nor any partnership of acquests


However if an unmarried couple has children together and they separate, one of them may be granted the right to stay in the home with the children for a period to time, for example until the Court decides on the issue of custody. These cases are all very fact specific and it is important to consult a lawyer to learn the extent of your rights.


For the decision of the Supreme Court in the Lola case:

Quebec (Attorney General) v. A, 2013 SCC 5


Despite unmarried spouses having no rights to spousal support nor an automatic share of assets acquired by the other during the relationship there have been several recent judgments which indicate that the Court is prepared to consider that work in the home and bringing up children may in fact be awarded by a sum of money granted pursuant to the rules of unjust enrichment.

For example in a recent case the Supreme Court granted just under $1 million to a spouse who had taken several years off work to follow her partner to another city and devote herself to bringing up their children while he pursued a very lucrative career. The Court granted her a percentage of what was accumulated during their relationship, refusing to simply add up the cost of what replacing her services would have been for the other partner.


You can read:

Kerr v. Baranow, 2011 SCC 10 [2011] 1 S.C.R. 269


In Quebec this judgment was applied by the Court of Appeal in the matter of Droit de la famille -132495, [2013] QCCA 1586

You can read it here: