What is a PACS (a French Civil Union)? How do you register a PACS agreement and what are the benefits of a PACS vs. a traditional marriage? Here’s what you need to know about entering into a PACS in France.
What Is a PACS?
A PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarité) is an agreement or contract between two people who wish to make a legal commitment to each other without undergoing a marriage ceremony. It was introduced in France in 1999 to afford some legal and taxation protection to homosexual couples, however, nowadays most PACS agreements are concluded between heterosexual couples.
A PACS is the equivalent of a civil partnership in the UK and is now recognised in the UK under the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
There are certain rights and obligations that both parties must agree to including division of possessions, reciprocal assistance, and material aid as part of their communal life.
Where to Go For a PACS in France
Since November 2017 it is no longer necessary for a PACS to be concluded at the district court and can now be registered at your local mairie (town hall) or with a notaire. The agreement itself can be drawn up by the couple or by a notaire.
It is also possible to register a PACS at a French embassy or consulate if you live abroad but in this situation, one of the partners must be a French national.
For those born outside France, such as the UK, the information on the PACS agreement is entered into the PACS register which is held by the central civil status service of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs in Nantes. French nationals have the details entered onto their birth certificate.
The PACS comes into effect on the day that it is registered whether at the town hall or by the notaire or embassy.
What’s Required to Register a PACS
There are certain requirements that you need to meet in order to enter into a PACS.
- Both partners must be of legal age. If one of the partners is not a French national, he/she must the age of majority in his/her country.
- Neither partner can be in a marriage or civil partnership.
- There must be no close familial relationship between the partners.
The notaire, town hall or embassy registering the PACS will decide if all the eligibility criteria have been met.
There are no nationality requirements to register for a PACS in France but at least one of the partners should be resident in France or a French national
Couples can be either the same or different sex and should be in a joint residence.
Documents Needed for a PACS
The documents needed for a UK citizen to register a PACS are as follows:
- PACS agreement. This must be written in French and include the signature of both partners. A standard agreement (cerfa form no.15726) can be used or it can be drawn up by the notaire
- A cerfa form no. 15725 is also needed and this certifies that there is no close familial relationship between the partners and that they share a common residence
- Birth certificate, less than 6 months old with an apostille which means it will be recognised in France as legal and authentic
- Valid identity document e.g., passport or identity card (original and 1 photocopy)
- Proof of address
- Certificate of custom, proving that the partner is of legal age, single and legally capable. Available on UK government website
- A non-PACS certificate, less than 3 months old. This is a single document that groups together 3 documents: (Certificate of non-registration in the PACS register, Certificate of non-registration in the civil register, Certificate of non-registration in the annex civil register) and can be applied for online or by mail
If you are divorced or widowed you may be asked for additional documents such as a decree absolute or a death certificate. These documents will be required for your application for a certificate of custom if they are relevant to your situation.
What is the Cost of a PACS in France?
The fees charged by a notaire to draft a PACS in 2021 is €101.41 including tax and the cost to register it is €125. There will be formality fees such as providing copies of the PACS agreement.
You can draft the agreement yourself and take it to the mairie closest to your home and there is no fee for this. However, as you will need several documents such as birth certificates, certificate of custom etc… you will incur fees and postage costs for these.
A certificate of custom currently costs £50 with a small fee added for the return of supporting documents.
A legalised or apostille birth certificate currently costs £30 plus postage from the official UK government website.
It is recommended that you draft a will at the same time or shortly after entering into a PACS and the fee will depend on the type of will that you choose. There are two choices, a ‘testament authentique ou mystique’ which costs €113.19 excluding VAT to draft and a ‘testament olographe’ which cost nothing to draft but will incur a registration fee. Custody and opening fees may also apply.
In total for a notaire to draft and register a PACS and testament olographe you should expect to pay around €400.
Benefits of a PACS in France
The benefits of entering into a PACS are mostly legal and tax-related, including making a joint tax return as would a married couple.
There is an exemption from inheritance tax although there must be a Will in place to ensure that the PACS partner is named as an heir. French inheritance laws are vastly different to their UK counterpart and is something anyone purchasing a property in France should be fully informed about.
Where there are children whether they are from the partnership or previous relationships will have the rights of reserved heirship and only the ‘quotité disponible’ can be left to the surviving partner. If there are no children, the entire estate can be Willed to the surviving partner.
Social security and healthcare benefits are the same for a PACS couple as for a married couple.
There is clear agreement on the allocation of assets in the event of a separation.
A PACS contract is far easier and cheaper to enter into than a marriage and there are fewer obligations.
The Disadvantages of a French PACS
As well as the agreement of mutual support and assistance related to everyday life there is also the responsibility for a partner’s debt unless the debt is excessive.
Simply entering into a PACS will not ensure a right of inheritance to the surviving partner. Without a Will, a civil union partner cannot inherit under French law. A Will or assurance vie policy is necessary to protect the remaining partner.
A surviving partner can only remain in the shared residence for 1 year after the death of their partner if there is no will allowing them to inherit.
A PACS agreement does not provide the same level of protection as marriage e.g., married partners benefit from a share of 50-60% of a deceased spouse’s pension but a PACS partner will not get anything.
For questions regarding French law, inheritance, and making a French will, visit our French Wills & Inheritance Law zone for more information or seek advice from one of our recommended legal advisors.
How is a PACS dissolved?
Unlike in the UK where a civil partnership has to meet certain criteria before it can be dissolved in France, a PACS is much easier to end.
The dissolution can be requested by one or both partners. The actual process will depend on where the PACS was registered: at the mairie, with a notaire or in an embassy or consulate.
A PACS can also be ended by marriage, to each other if they want to change the status of their relationship, or if one of the partners marries someone else the PACS is automatically dissolved.
As with marriage, the death of a partner results in the dissolution of a PACS.
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