Civil Union Legal Definition:

A formal union between two people, of the same or of different genders which results in, but falls short of, marriage-like rights and obligations.

Related Terms: Adult Interdependent Partner

Introduced in the civi law of Quebec in 2002 in response to growing requests from same-sex couples to have their unions recognized in law. A civil union is subject to strict formalities in particular, an event similar to a marriage ceremony.

The 2009 version of Quebec's Civil Code provides at §521.1, §521.2 and §521.6:

"A civil union is a commitment by two persons 18 years of age or over who express their free and enlightened consent to live together and to uphold the rights and obligations that derive from that status.

"A civil union may only be contracted between persons who are free from any previous bond of marriage or civil union and who in relation to each other are neither an ascendant or a descendant, nor a brother or a sister.

"A civil union must be contracted openly before an officiant competent to solemnize marriages and in the presence of two witnesses.

"The spouses in a civil union have the same rights and obligations. They owe each other respect, fidelity, succour and assistance. They are bound to live together. The effects of the civil union as regards the direction of the family, the exercise of parental authority, contribution towards expenses, the family residence, the family patrimony and the compensatory allowance are the same as the effects of marriage, with the necessary modifications."

For the most part, the effects of a civil union are the same as those of marriage.

One significant difference from marriage: As long as there have been no children, a civil union does not require any judicial order to end although it may be ended in this way. The parties to a civil union may, by written declaration, end their civil union.

In what may have been wishful thinking on the part of the drafters of the 2009 Civil Code of Quebec, the French version of §521.3 - but not the English version - describes the civil union (union de fait) as a (joyful) celebration: "La célébration d'une union civile...."

In France, another civil law jurisdiction, a similar device is now in the Civil Code of France. §515-1 introduced a civil covenant of solidarity.

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