The Myths

Many myths about common law unions continue to persist even today. According to an Ipsos Descarie survey performed for the Chambre des notaires du Quebec, nearly half of people in common law unions believe that they benefit from the same protection as married couples. Yet, this is not the cas.

The survey conducted among couples explored various aspects of their lives together. Survey participants were invited to share their perceptions of marriage and of common
law union.

Persistent myths

The survey explored the realities and myths surrounding common law union and the "false sense of security" of the respondents.

So, even if reality is otherwise:

  • nearly 50% firmly believe that common law spouses are as well protected as married couples.
  • 26% of people in common law unions are unaware that upon the death of a spouse, the surviving spouse is not automatically entitled to the property of the deceased.
  • 42% are unaware that a spouse who is sole owner of the home is legally entitled to sell it without consulting his or her spouse.
  • 62% of people in common law unions are unaware that in the event of separation, assets and property acquired during the course of their life as a couple will not necessarily be split down the middle..
  • over 58% of common law couples are unaware that the lower income spouse is not entitled to alimony in the event of separation.
  • 46% of common law couples think that, after a certain number of years of living together, they have the same rights as married couples.

Under-used Tools

Convinced that they are relatively well protected—60% believe themselves to be adequately prepared to face the obligations that might arise in the event of separation—people in common law unions rarely consider drafting a will, a mandate in case of incapacity or a cohabitation contract.

The survey reveals that only 19% of common law spouses have drafted a cohabitation contract. Many blame negligence or lack of time, others ignorance, or lack of interest and yet others simply say that it had never crossed their minds. Others believe a will to be sufficient protection.

The notion of trying out a relationship is central to common law unions—at least at the beginning. For certain people, itʼs altogether likely that signing a cohabitation contract or a will is too official and too much like marriage. However, in a context where common law unions are gaining in popularity, it is crucial to better inform citizens of their rights and obligations, because drafting a cohabitation contract or will as a preventive measure could avoid them a great deal of trouble.

Ipsos Descarie, « Sondage sur l'union libre », Rapport de recherche pour la Chambre des notaires du Québec, octobre 2007, Dossier 07-204, 89 pages.

Ipsos Descarie, « Campagne », Rapport de recherche pour la Chambre des notaires du Québec, mars 2013, 8 pages.