No official divorce papers, no pension benefits for the widow or widower under old Quebec law

How would you feel finding out after your spouse dies that you aren't entitled to survivor's pension benefits?

That's what happens to about 40 Quebecers a year who find out that's the case because the spouse's previous marriage was not officially over, according to an old law La Presse is reporting about.

The newspaper spoke with Claudette Marquis whose husband died of lung cancer. They were together for 43 years and had a daughter.

Louis-France Tremblay divorced his first wife in the late '60s but he didn't finalize the papers - part of the more complicated rules before they were changed in 1985. Marquis is fighting to get her husband's pension benefits. Marquis now doesn't even have enough money for dental work or car repairs.

Family law lawyer Linda Hammerschmid said it's a rare case but devastating nonetheless.

"The only way to prevent this from happening if you're the person that was getting a divorce back under the 1968 divorce act is to make sure that you have a paper that says final decree absolute," said Hammerschmid in an interview with CJAD 800 news.

Hammerschmid said a will could have helped.

"Sort of would have made sure that she's inheriting from the estate and gives her a stronger foothold as being somebody that could claim on behalf of the estate for her and her daughter against this first wife," said Hammerschmid.

Changing the law could help but,...

"You still have that impediment of an unfinalized divorce and you just have to take the necessary proceedings to get it done," said Hammerschmid.

"It's a simple as that as opposed to changing the law."