Marriage entails the establishment of a family patrimony consisting of certain property of the spouses regardless of which of them holds a right of ownership in that property (article 414 C.c.Q).
Article 415 of the Civil Code of Quebec lists the property included in the family patrimony, namely:
- The residences of the family or the rights which confer use of them;
- The movable property with which the residences of the family are furnished or decorated and which serves for the use of the household;
- The motor vehicles used for family travel;
- The parties’ respective RRSPs;
- The benefits accrued to a spouse during the marriage under a retirement or pension plan;
- The registered earnings, during the marriage, of each spouse pursuant to the Act respecting the Québec Pension Plan;
Property of the spouses not included in the list above does not form part of the family patrimony, but rather part of the spouses’ matrimonial regime (typically either the Partnership of Acquests or Separation as to Property).
Property enumerated at 415 C.c.Q that devolved to one of the spouses by succession or gift, either before or during the marriage, is excluded from the family patrimony.
There can also be deductions from the partitionable value of the family patrimony resulting from family patrimony property being owned by one of the spouses at the time of marriage or its reinvestment into new family patrimony property, as well as from the investment or reinvestment of gifts/donations and/or inherited sums into family patrimony property.
In virtue of article 416 C.c.Q., the value of the family patrimony is, in principle, equally divided between the spouses. However, article 422 C.c.Q. provides a mechanism by which the court may make an exception to the rule of partition into equal shares, where it would cause “an injustice considering, in particular, the brevity of the marriage, the waste of certain property by one of the spouses, or the bad faith of one of them”.