Separation and divorce
De facto partners: dividing property after a breakup
When you break up, you and your ex will have to divide up the furniture, the electrical appliances, the car, the house, and any other property you acquired during your relationship. To find out if you can keep something or sell it, or if you have to let your ex keep it, you first have to determine who owns it.
Some couples decide in advance how their property will be divided in the event of a breakup. This type of agreement can be set out in a “Cohabitation Agreement”.
If this is your situation, you and your ex must respect this contract. If one of you refuses, the other can apply to the Court to enforce it.
Determining the owner
Property usually belongs to the person who bought it. Proof of purchase such as an invoice can help you identify the owner. The purchaser isn’t always the owner, however. For example, the person who receives a gift is the owner of that item, even when the gift is from the recipient’s partner.
You bought the property together?
In this case, you’re considered co-owners of the property and the only thing left to do is figure out each person’s share. For example, you could both own 50%, or one of you could own 70% and the other 30%. If you’re unable to determine your respective shares, under the law you’re considered to share the property equally.
The sole owner decides
A de facto partner who is the sole owner can do whatever he or she wants with the property, including keep it, sell it, or give it away without having to account for it to his or her ex.
Co-owners must reach an agreement
If you and your ex are co-owners, you have to agree on who can keep the property. If one partner lets the other one keep an item, financial compensation can be requested from the partner who keeps it, as though the first partner were selling his or her portion. You can also decide together to sell the property and share the proceeds of the sale.
Watch out for debts!
Before deciding which partner will keep the property, find out if there are any debts attached to it. If there are, it’s best to determine in advance which partner will be responsible for them to avoid unpleasant surprises.
You also need to make sure that the agreement you’ve made with your ex is acceptable to the creditor, i.e., the person or the financial institution to be repaid for the debt. Otherwise the creditor can claim the money from you. The fact that you’re no longer in possession of the property doesn’t mean that you’re automatically released from any related debts.
If you and your ex can’t agree, you can ask a mediator to help you find common ground.
If you can’t reach an agreement, you can ask a judge to decide. The judge may, for example:
- determine which of you owns the property,
- determine each co-owner’s share in the property,
- order your ex to return property you own,
- order your ex to pay you financial compensation for depriving you of your property,
- determine the value of the property,
- order the sale of property you co-own,
- grant each of you the exclusive ownership of a portion of the property you co-own.
How do you apply to the court?
All your claims concerning your property can be made in the same written judicial application. If you have any other applications regarding your separation, such as an application for custody of your children, you can include your property claims in that written application.
The title of your written application will depend on what you’re applying for.
Where do you file your application?
You must file your application at the courthouse, but the court or division to apply to will depend on what you’re applying for.
If your application concerns your children (e.g., custody, support, parental authority) and your property, you need to apply to the Superior Court of Québec.
If your application concerns only your property, the court you apply to depends on various elements, such as the value of the property or, if you’re co-owners, the value of your share in the property. Talk to a legal professional or make an appointment at a legal clinic to find out where to file your application.
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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.