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Separation and divorce

The keys to understanding a judgment

A judgment is a written decision issued by a judge. You can receive a judgment at different stages of court proceedings. Knowing the different types of judgments and the information they may contain will help you understand the judgment you received and its effects.

The different types of judgments

Different types of judgments may be issued at various stages of the court process. Judgments issued during the court process are usually valid for a limited period of time. Judgments issued at the end of the court process (often called “final judgments”) usually provide the final outcome of the court case.

Here are three common types of judgments.

This type of judgment addresses an urgent situation (for example, child custody, support payments, use of the family residence). It is issued prior to the hearing of a divorce case and is generally valid for no more than six months.

The safeguard order is often included in a document entitled “Procès-verbal” (the minutes of the hearing). This document provides a record of what a judge decided, for example, during a hearing on an application for a safeguard order.

This type of judgment concerns only married couples. It generally deals with the same issues as safeguard orders (for example, custody, support payments, use of the family residence) but is issued after a more comprehensive hearing, which may include testimony by witnesses. The judgment on provisional measures generally remain in effect until the divorce becomes official.

The final judgment is issued after the trial, and the time it remains in effect varies according to the situation. Receiving a final judgment does not necessarily mean the court process is finished. Court proceedings may continue when:

  • You, or your ex, disagrees with the judgment and wishes to appeal it
  • Your situation, or your ex’s situation, has changed and you wish to have the judgment modified
  • The judgment is not respected

The structure of a judgment

Apart from safeguard orders (which you’ll usually find in the minutes of a hearing, in which the court clerk transcribes all of the judge’s decisions), judgments are generally divided into 3 major sections.

The heading is at the beginning of a judgment. It tells you what type of judgment is involved and contains your name, your ex’s name, and the court file number.

This is usually the longest section of the judgment. It generally explains what each party is requesting and contains the judge’s analysis.

Claims of the parties

This section summarizes what you and your ex are requesting (e.g., divorce, child custody, support payments, etc.). It also summarizes the arguments you and your ex have presented in support of your requests.

Judge’s analysis

This section provides the judge’s reasoning. It explains why the judge made the decision(s) in question. The judge relies on the facts presented and applies the relevant legal rules.

To be noted

These sections may go by different names. For example, the claims of the parties may be presented in a section called “overview” or “background”. The judge’s analysis may be in a section entitled “reasons”.

After presenting the analysis, the judge sets out the conclusions. These are the concrete decisions the judge has made.

This section of the judgment tells you what you are entitled to and what orders you and your ex must respect.

The end of a judgment always contains its conclusions, but a judge may choose to summarize them earlier as well, for example, in the introduction.

You must respect the judgment

You must respect and comply with the conclusions of the judgment, even if you’re not happy with the outcome.

You generally have 30 days from the date of a judgment to voluntarily comply with it. However, orders regarding child custody, support payments and court costs must be respected immediately. The judge can also order that other parts of the judgment be respected immediately.

There can be serious consequences if you fail to comply with a judgment. For example, you may have to pay interest if you fail to make payments that are due. Your ex could ask the court to modify a judgment, and change who has custody, if you don’t respect the custody arrangement set out in the judgement. In rare instances, you could be found guilty of contempt of court, in which case you may have to pay a fine, do community work, or a combination of both.


The information presented on this page is not a legal opinion or legal advice. This page explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. To obtain a legal opinion or legal advice on your personal situation, consult a legal professional.

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