Family Life, Parental Separation, and Child Custody in Canada: a Focus on Quebec


  • Francine Cyr,

  • Gessica Di Stefano,

  • Bertrand Desjardins



The United States and Canada have been experiencing major changes in family formation and dissolution over the past decades. Within this context, the French-Canadian Province of Quebec has consistently been at the forefront—in 2011, for example, 37.8 per cent of Quebec couples were cohabitants and 63 per cent of births were from nonmarried parents. Is this difference strictly due to Quebec's distinct social and cultural characteristics or can the Quebec experience be seen as a predictor of things to come for the rest of Canada and the United States? This article discusses the causes of these new behaviors in Quebec, presents changes in the Canadian legal system to facilitate less adversarial procedures, and reports the results of a Quebec longitudinal study exploring the relationship between child adjustment and custody arrangements. The quality of the psychological and relational environment in which the child lives is shown to be more important than the type of family structure and custody arrangement.

Keypoints for the Family Court Community

  • Family structure changes in Quebec and Canada
  • Divorce less adversarial dispute resolution options
  • Contribution of child custody arrangement to postseparation child well-being
  • Moderating factors of child well-being in separated divorced families
  • Emotional well-being, parenting practices, and household income of mothers with joint versus sole custody