Quebec’s lawmakers have deliberately chosen not to give de facto couples the same rights and responsibilities that married couples have under the Law of Quebec, to preserve the freedom of choice. Upon the termination of a relationship, “no matter how long cohabitation has lasted, de facto spouses have no legal support obligation to each other, even if one spouse is in need and the other has a high income.” Quebec is the only province in Canada where spousal support payments are not recognized by law for de facto spouses. An astonishing 34.6 percent of all Quebec couples are de facto couples, and one half of couples under 40 are not married.
It is no secret that marriage has been on the decline in the United States even as illegitimacy is on the rise. The problem is obvious: No-fault divorce combined with abusive child support and post-marital support laws has increased the incentive for women to end marriages while simultaneously driving up the cost of ending them to men. As economics would predict, providing incentives for ending marriages to women has increased the percentage of women ending them, while increasing the potential cost of marriage has decreased the number of men willing to take the risk.
As is the case with so many government actions, the laws intended to revise marriage, beginning with the California Family Law Act of 1969, were predicated on static human behavior and failed to take into account their own influence on how men and women would subsequently behave. This is often seen with tax increases, wherein the higher rate of tax fails to bring in the expected amount of increased revenue due to tax-avoidant behavior inspired by the new rate. In like manner, the new marriage laws have not only failed to improve the lot of women and children as it was anticipated they would, but have actually made them worse.
Instead of an insufficiently supportive ex-husband, many women now find themselves unwed single mothers. Instead of possessing an unhappily married pair of parents or a father whose lifestyle is more comfortable than his mother’s, many children find themselves illegitimate and without any paternal contact or financial support at all. While the percentage of young men who remain unmarried receives most of the attention, the scope of the change can be best seen at the opposite end of the age spectrum. Whereas in 1970 only 4.9 percent of men between the ages of 40-44 had never married, in 2010, that percentage had risen to 20.4 percent.
The fact that this increased unwillingness to marry is largely male can be seen by looking at the change in the related statistics for women, as the 40-year delta for women between the ages of 40-44 is from 6.3 to 13.8 percent. And while the number of never-married young women from 20-24 has risen by 45 percent (to 79.3 percent), this increase is dwarfed by increase in the number of never-married young men from the same age cohort, 148 percent (to 88.7 percent).
From this we can see that the ailing state of marriage in the United States is primarily the result of the increased male reluctance to marry, which stems from the legal changes on the institution imposed by the various state governments in the early 1970s.
The reason that the Quebec de facto couple law offers an effective way around this problem is that it offers a means of allowing men to enter formal, exclusive and legally recognized relationships without imposing the post-marital disincentives of the current marriage laws. The difference between the 19 percent of unmarried, cohabitating couples in the United States and the 34.6 percent of de facto couples in Quebec is the number of additional marriages that might be expected to take place if de facto marriage were an option. That would mean approximately three million more marriages in the United States and millions of children being raised legitimately in two-parent homes instead of growing up as the bastard sons and daughters of unwed, unsupported mothers.