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Normandin Beaudry

Civil unions

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There, in black and white

NB Bulletin Vol. 5 N. 7, July 2002

Bill 84¸ tabled on April 25¸ 2002¸ by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General¸ Mr. Paul Bégin¸ was adopted without amendment on June 7¸ 2002. The Act instituting civil unions and establishing new rules of filiation became effective on June 24¸ 2002.

This law creates a new marital institution¸ civil union¸ which is available to couples regardless of their sexual orientation and has all of the effects of marriage. It allows spouses to enter into a civil union agreement¸ and is subject to the same rules as a matrimonial contract. The only distinction made by the law between married couples and those in a civil union is in regards to the minimum age required to enter in such a union as well as the dissolution process. Partners who wish to establish a civil union can do so as of 18 years of age¸ where spouses must be at least 16 years of age for marriage. As for the dissolution process¸ a common declaration of dissolution of the civil union can be executed by a notary¸ unlike the divorce procedure for married couples which requires a judicial intervention. To do so¸ the spouses must resolve all consequences of the dissolution and the interest of any common children must not be at stake.

Civil union spouses will therefore be given the same rights and obligations as those granted by marriage. The new law specifies adoption rules for same-sex parents and establishes new rules regarding filiation (kinship between a child and his father and mother).

The addition of a new civil status will affect the definitions of spouses in pension plan provisions and group insurance policies.

After the bill was adopted¸ the Supplemental Pension Plans Act was modified in order to reflect the concepts of a civil union and dissolution of a civil union. Partners united by such a union will therefore have the same rights and benefits as married couples in terms of death benefits and the sharing of assets in the event of a dissolved civil union.

In most cases¸ before this law was introduced¸ same-sex spouses were eligible for group policies after a period of cohabitation of at least one year. The addition of the civil union does not change the definition of a common law spouse¸ but it now gives to civil union spouses the opportunity of joining a group plan earlier.

Insurance companies plan to change their definition of spouse in future policies¸ but will not amend existing policies since the law takes precedence over policy clauses.

 

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