The parental union regime will have repercussions for women, say organizations

Simon Jolin-Barrette's reform of marital law aims to rebalance relationships between married and unmarried people, but could create an imbalance within common-law couples, fear women's defense organizations.

The crux of the problem lies, according to them, in the choice to exclude RRSPs and pension funds from the common assets that future couples in “parental union” will form. “It’s certain that it will lead to certain injustices,” says the president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ), Sylvie St-Amand, a few days after the submission by the Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, of the second part of its reform of family law.

Bill 56 “on the reform of family law and establishing the parental union regime” will have the effect, if adopted as is, of establishing a common heritage for couples who will have a child from July 2025.

As for a married couple who are divorcing, people in a “parental union” who separate will share the family residence, the car and the furniture “in equal parts”, predicts Minister Jolin-Barrette. But unlike the marital regime, parental union assets do not include retirement plans and pension funds. After a separation, each separated parent will therefore leave with the share of the earnings that they themselves accumulated during the union, unless there is an agreement within the couple.

Two diets

At a press conference last week, Minister Jolin-Barrette justified himself by recalling that his bill aimed to create a separate regime for marriage. “(RRSPs and pension funds) are protections associated with marriage,” he said. “I think that Quebecers must have (…) options. »

“It bothers us,” replies the general director of the Federation of Associations of Single-Parent and Recomposed Families of Quebec (FAFMRQ), Mariepier Dufour. In interview with The dutyshe is worried that the minister's choices will have a greater impact on women's portfolios in the long term.

“It’s a big concern that we have,” she maintains. “It is certain that the woman who puts her career aside during her maternity leave and during parental leave, then, during that time, cannot put money aside, that creates an income gap. »

All the more so, recalls Sylvie St-Amand, of the FFQ, that women “often have less well-paid jobs”. At the beginning of last year, the Council on the Status of Women reported in a memorandum that on average in 2020, women accumulated retirement income approximately 28% lower than men – $16,500 per year compared to 22,800 $ per year. Same thing for the amount of the retirement pension: the gap between payments was more than $2,000 annually, in favor of men, according to data from Retraite Québec.

“Even if the residences have increased in value, depending on the number of years that the union lasted, it is often the retirement plans which are the most important shareable sum,” notes full professor Carmen Lavallée, director of the master's degree in law program at the University of Sherbrooke, in an interview with The duty. “When we liquidate family assets, the crux of the matter is the retirement plan. »

Women's lack of savings for retirement therefore remains a “significant cause of impoverishment”, according to this family law expert, who had nevertheless informed the minister's teams before the presentation of his bill. .

Alimony

Lawyer Anne-France Goldwater, who defended Lola in the famous Éric v. More than eleven years ago, Lola pleaded for the CAQ government to copy and paste the marital regime to apply it to de facto spouses. The exclusion of retirement income from sharing parental union makes her fume.

“I know of lots of cases where both spouses have exactly the same job: banker, doctor, whatever. And the salaries are really different because the career choices are different. So for sure, it will have repercussions on the future of women,” she laments.

Added to this is the impossibility of obtaining alimony in the event of a separation, points out Carmen Lavallée. “The law does not provide for any possibility of maintenance obligations between spouses. I find, personally, that it could have been a way of reestablishing a certain balance, of ultimately reducing the differences between the spouses,” she emphasizes.

If Mr. Goldwater describes Mr. Jolin-Barrette's reform as a “disaster”, the FFQ and the FAFMRQ nevertheless see it as a step forward. The possibility for the person who obtains custody of the child to occupy the family residence after a separation, for example, should prove to be a “safety net” for women, underlines Mariepier Dufour.

“It is still a step forward, because a woman who did not have her name on a mortgage loan, on a house, will not be forced to leave within a time frame that does not make sense,” says she said.

The next stage of the study of the bill is that of special consultations. The groups concerned will then be able to make themselves heard, before parliamentarians proceed to study the legislative text article by article, during which they can amend it. Contacted by The duty, the Council on the Status of Women did not wish to grant an interview. He will make his comments known “by means of a brief when the time comes,” said communications advisor Chloé Thibault, in an email exchange.

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