In 1989, Quebec passed the Act to Amend the Civil Code of Québec and Other Legislation in Order to Favour Economic Equality Between Spouses. This law created the family patrimony (also known as family property or family assets) for all married couples and made major changes to the financial relationship between spouses.
Couples married before July 1, 1989 could decide that the law did not apply to them. Couples married after this date have no choice: the rules on family patrimony apply to them.
Opting Out of the Family Patrimony Rules
Spouses had until December 31, 1990 to opt out of the family patrimony rules. They could do this by filing a declaration together in court, or by signing a document prepared by a notary.
Effects of Opting Out of the Family Patrimony Rules
Time passes, and one of the spouses who opted out of the family patrimony rules is thinking about filing for divorce. He meets with his lawyer to learn more about his rights.
Since he was married before July 1, 1989, his lawyer asks if ever he signed a document in front of a notary to opt out of the family patrimony rules. He vaguely remembers having signed something. After looking everywhere, he finally finds the document, which confirms the spouses opted out of the family patrimony rules.
What does this old document mean for me, asks the client. In your situation, it could mean that you just lost a lot of money, answers the lawyer. Under the family patrimony rules, the spouses share the value of the family property equally. But the paper you signed says you didn't want these rules to apply to you.
Going Back in Time?
Many couples knew exactly what they were doing when they opted out of the family patrimony rules. If one spouse now realizes it was not to her advantage to opt out, there's not much she can do.
It's different for spouses who were pressured or bullied by their spouses to sign the document in front of a notary. They can ask the judge to declare the document invalid and to apply the family patrimony rules.
In some cases, spouses who were not fully aware of what they were doing (for example, because they didn't know what they were signing) can also ask the judge to declare the document invalid and apply the family patrimony rules.
Since each case is unique, don't hesitate to contact a lawyer to learn what your document means in your situation.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.