Chronique de la Chambre des notaires: 5 good reasons to separate with the help of a notary

In Quebec, the average cost of a contested divorce is around $13,638; even worse, a family law trial costs $35,950 for five days[i]! So think long and hard before embarking on such a costly process. Is it possible to settle your divorce harmoniously? Yes, it is. The notary works on the ground of good understanding and helps you find fair and equitable solutions that allow you to avoid the courts.

To better understand the role of the notary, let's explore 5 situations that may lead couples to consult a notary during a separation.


1. Being in a common-law relationship is not the same as being married

Martin and Suzanne are in a common-law relationship. Since Martin works and Suzanne has had 3 consecutive maternity leaves, they have put their house in Martin's name. According to them, they don't need a cohabitation agreement, as they are protected by law. Suzanne discovers that she has nothing if she separates.


In Quebec, 45% of common-law couples believe they are protected in the same way as married spouses, and 49% believe that all assets acquired during the de facto union will be divided equally upon separation[ii] .. However, this is not the case. A notary will explain to couples their rights, separating reality from myth. In mediation, he or she will help them determine their needs, explore possible solutions and find common ground.


2. It's possible to avoid bickering when family assets are inequitable.

Marco and Émilie are married in a partnership. Marco is an employee with a pension fund. Émilie has and her assets are now worth four times as much as Marco's. Émilie discovers that if they divorce, she'll have to give nearly 40% of her estate to Marco.


Since February 21, 2017, couples who separate with the desire to avoid conflict can proceed with their amicable divorce with a notary from the beginning to the end of the process. In particular, the notary can help married or civil union couples select the right matrimonial property regime when all goes well. In the event of separation, he can ease tensions and guide people towards an equitable division. He can also advise and guide the parties towards a simpler, more harmonious process. In Quebec, there are 239,966 small and medium-sized businesses.s [iii] and 1,838,115 couples[iv].


3. Getting along with your ex for the sake of your children

After several years together, Carl and Benoit are separating. They disagree on child custody child custody, visitation rights, access to grandparents, and child support. What can they do to avoid war?

Family mediation is for people who want to settle the consequences of their break-up amicably, but who are unable to agree on all aspects of the separation.

Many everyday situations are dealt with in family mediation. However, if you have dependent children and are separating, the government will pay up to 5 hours of fees for an accredited notary mediator. Family mediation can also be used to modify your agreement or a court judgment, for up to 2 hours 30 minutes.

84% of couples with children who used mediation reached an agreement.


4. Immigrant couple living in Quebec but married abroad

Jorge and Anita were married in Mexico, where they lived at the time. They now live in Quebec, but have assets both here and abroad. At the time of separation, they disagree about the division of property and are trying to understand the applicable rules.


A notary can help both parties understand their legal situation and find common ground. In many cases, it's a matter of getting the spouses to consider each other's particularities in order to find reasonable solutions.


5. Children with special needs, parents wanting to relinquish their responsibilities

Tammy and Ryan are separating. They have an autistic child. Ryan would like to give Tammy custody of the child, because it's too much work. She doesn't agree. What do they do?


The notary mediator can facilitate negotiations between the two separating parents by making communication more effective and ensuring that their expectations are realistic. He can also recommend various psychological and financial services that can ease the burden on parents with a disabled child, and propose solutions that will protect the child if something happens to the parents. In Quebec, nearly 10% of people over the age of 15 have a mild to very severe disability, and 3% of the population has an intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder.[v].


Separation is never easy. However, the process can be less painful when the spouses agree to settle all or part of the consequences of their separation amicably. If mediation fails, the spouses will defer to the judge's decision at trial. There will also be a trial if the spouses have agreed on certain aspects, but there is still a dispute over others.


Do you have any questions?

Call 1-800-NOTAIRE (1-800-668-2473) to speak to a notary or ask your question online at 1-800-NOTAIRE, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.



[ii] Hélène BELLEAU, Carmen LAVALLÉE and Annabelle SEERY, Unions et désunions conjugales au Québec: rapport de recherche. Première partie : le couple, l'argent et le droit, Montréal, INRS - Centre Urbanisation Culture Société, 2017, p. 67