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Separation and divorce

De facto partners: how to divide 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.

Did you sign a cohabitation agreement?

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.

En apprendre plus

Written Agreements Between Common-Law Couples (Éducaloi)

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.

Conflict resolution

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.

En apprendre plus

When Common-Law Couples Separate: Which Court Decides the Details? (Éducaloi)


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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