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‘It took five trips to mairie’: What is getting a Pacs in France like?

Three couples share their experience of getting Pacs-ed, the French equivalent of a civil partnership

Jane Henriques got a Pacs with her partner Patrick in 2017 Pic: Provided by interviewee

The Pacte Civil de Solidarité (Pacs) is the French equivalent to a civil partnership. It serves to officialise a couple’s relationship and also affords them certain rights – some different and some similar to marriage. 

It was originally aimed at same-sex couples and was then opened to all in 2013.

It is becoming an increasingly popular option for couples in France looking to enter into a more formal relationship, without some of the hassles of marriage. 

We explain exactly what it is and how to get one in our explainer article here: How to get a Pacs in France and what differences to marriage

We spoke to three Connexion readers about their experiences of getting a Pacs. Two, who chose to go through a notaire, said the process was quite smooth, while one person, who did it with the local town hall, said it was far more complicated.

Read their stories below.

Jane Henriques, 77 (pictured above)

Jane Henriques, originally from the UK, got a Pacs with her 80-year-old partner Patrick in 2017. They own a house together in Vaucluse (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur), and she said practical reasons drove their decision.

“We wanted to buy a house together, and we felt this was the easiest way to make sure we had some claim to it if one of us died. 

“I didn’t want to get married. I have been divorced and I never want to marry again. 

“We also thought about a civil partnership in the UK. But I have a property in England and it complicated things with my will. With a Pacs, everything remains separate. 

“It feels better. It feels like we are more autonomous. 

“Marriage carries with it a lot of complications, and I think to an extent civil partnerships in the UK do too. 

“To get the Pacs we went through a notaire.

“I don’t think the process took very long, probably between two or three months. 

“There were no difficulties in terms of the documents. The notaire took care of everything. 

“We didn’t really celebrate the occasion. It was a fairly utilitarian thing to do because of the house and all that. 

“On the day it was very straight forward. It was not like a marriage – there were no witnesses or anything like that. 

“I think the separation of financial matters is very important and is attractive to people. We don’t do our taxes together. Mine are a bit more complicated. I think it’s much easier just to do these things separately.”

Paul Merrick, 61

Paul Merrick, originally from the UK, got a Pacs with his French partner in June last year. They live in La Garenne Colombes in the suburbs of Paris and decided to get the Pacs through the mairie, which proved to be a hassle.

“The process took five trips to the town hall as at each visit we saw a different person who asked for more and/or different documents. 

“We went from frustration to amusement as we waited for another document to be requested. 

“I don’t think it was anything to do with me not being French. My partner was there and she is French. 

“It seemed like the staff at the mairie didn’t really know what they were doing. 

“They had an issue with the certificate from the UK saying I was not in any other relationship (a certificat de coutume). 

“They asked for that to be translated into French. And then there was the birth certificate that they had the same problem with. 

“There was one form that we didn’t have on the first two trips there, and it was only on the third time seeing someone that they mentioned that we needed it. 

“The person we spoke to on the third time was a bit more organised and told us exactly what we needed, so on trip number four is when we actually submitted all the correct documents, and trip number five was going down to finalise it. 

“The translation services cost around €35 or €45, it wasn’t too expensive.

“Everything at the mairie was free. 

“It probably took around three months from start to finish to get the Pacs. 

“We decided to get a Pacs instead of getting married because we have kids from previous relationships and we have our own money and things like that. We wanted something more formal, but without the complications of marriage. 

“The Pacs is nice because you just put ‘zero sharing’ on the form and it’s done.

“The only downside is that I don’t get my partner’s pension if she dies ahead of me, and it’s the same vice versa. 

I pretty much worked my entire life in the US, so when I get my pension it will be from there. But the US doesn’t recognise the Pacs, so my partner won’t get my pension if I die first either.

“We sometimes joke about needing to get married just so that whoever dies first gets the other person’s pension. 

“We had a bottle of champagne to celebrate the Pacs. 

“We bought it before our first visit to the mairie, which seems kind of naive in hindsight. It was in the fridge waiting for us to get home. It just sat there through all the visits over the three months. 

“A Pacs feels a lot more low-key than a marriage. A wedding is something you would tell people about, but with a Pacs it feels more private. We didn’t really tell anyone we were doing it, we just did it.”

Janet (anonymous)

Janet, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote in to describe her experience of getting a Pacs in France. 

“After living together for many years (20 of them in France), we decided it was time to 'formalise' our partnership, so we looked into entering into a Pacs agreement in France.

“Neither of us has any children.

“We discovered that there are two ways to go about this. One is at the local mairie, and the secretary there gave us all the relevant information and paperwork to be completed. 

“We were told to obtain certified copies of our UK birth certificates (it is possible to order and pay for these online) and then to have them translated into French by an official translator.

“We also needed to send to, and pay the British Embassy in Paris, for a certificat de coutume to state that we were both free to enter into a Pacs agreement.

“Once the paperwork is assembled and completed, you take it back to the mairie and a date will be fixed for signing the agreement. This service is free of charge.

“The second option is to go to a notaire, which we did. 

“We had an initial meeting with him, when he took photocopies of our passports, original birth certificates, marriage and divorce certificates. There was no need for them to be translated, and although he took the certificate de coutume, he didn't appear to think it was necessary.  

“We opted for the ‘régime de l’indivision des biens’, which means that once the Pacs is finalised, all acquisitions are shared, no matter who pays for them. 

“He prepared the documents and we had a further meeting after a couple of weeks, during which he carefully explained the agreement to us, which we then signed. There is no need for witnesses and certainly no ceremony. 

“He advised us on the subject of wills, as Pacsed partners do not have the same automatic inheritance rights as a married couple. 

“He said our recent English wills (each leaving everything to the other) would suffice but will need to be translated when the time comes for them to be used.

“Following registration of the Pacs with the Service Central d'État Civil (organised by the notaire), we received a certified copy of the agreement by post. 

“For all of this, we paid the notaire the standard fixed fee of €275, which in our opinion was money well spent, as the process was carried out quickly and easily.”

Related stories:

Make sense of.....The French Pacs

Six ways to reduce your French inheritance tax

Estate planning in France and how to benefit your family

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