Separation of Common-Law Couples: The Court Process


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When common-law couples separate and can’t agree on the issues they must settle, they can ask a judge to decide for them. There are three main steps in the court process. 


1 – The Originating Application 

The court process starts when one of the partners files an originating application in the office of the court. This is a document that says what the partner is asking for, such as child support, child custody, a decision about money or the couple’s property. 

At the same time, the partner can make a formal request for a safeguard order. This is a request for the judge to decide issues that must be settled right away.

The other partner is officially notified of the requests. This is called service


2 – Presenting the Requests to a Judge 

A document called a notice to appear is attached to the requests. The notice tells the other partner the date when the request will be made to the judge. 

A request for a safeguard order can be heard quickly. It can be presented to a judge at least three days after being sent to the other partner, unless there is an emergency. The originating application must be presented to a judge at least 10 days after service.


3 – The Hearing 

The hearing takes place a few months after the originating application was filed. All documents must be ready before the partners can get a date for the hearing. At the hearing, the judge will listen to both partners. The judge then has one month to make a decision.

If you have children . . . 

Before you can get a hearing date, you must attend an information session on parenting and mediation. In some cases, you might be entitled to free mediation sessions.     

Important !
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.