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French woman married to two husbands for 17 years due to mairie error

While the correct name of her husband shows on the marriage certificate, the mayor was also listed as her husband on official papers

Catherine’s current marriage status breaks France’s ban on polygamy. Photo for illustration purposes only Pic: Ground Picture / Shutterstock

A French woman had the surprise of discovering that she is listed as married to two husbands – one of whom was mayor – in official papers due to an administrative error.

As well as breaking France’s ban on polygamy, the error could lead to significant financial problems related to inheritance and pensions, for example.

Catherine, 51, learned from officials in Gonesse, the town in Val-d’Oise where she was born, that the former mayor of the commune where she now lives is listed as her husband, as well as her real one.

Her husband’s name was registered on her marriage certificate but the then mayor of Clermont-l’Hérault in Hérault, Alain Cazorla, is listed on her acte de naissance

The latter is a French document which confirms the birth of a French citizen. It is required to produce other administrative documents, such as a marriage certificate or passport renewal.

Catherine discovered the error as she searched through paperwork to deal with administrative tasks after the death of a family member.

Under French law, she is officially considered Mr Cazorla’s wife because the acte de naissance trumps the marriage certificate.

“The mistake is on us. One of our clerks confused both names when the marriage certificate was sent to the mairie,” said Nelson de Pessemier, chief of staff for Gonesse’s mayor, Jean-Pierre Blazy.

Mr de Pessemier could not share the woman’s last name with The Connexion but was glad to correct the mayor’s details, saying he had been mistakenly credited as being Gonnesse’s mayor in some French media reports.

The confusion could cause potentially significant problems for Catherine, according to a legal expert hired to advise her, reports local newspaper La Dépêche.

Catherine is particularly worried about her widow’s pension in the event of her actual husband dying, fearing she might not benefit from it if her acte de naissance lists a different husband.

Read also: What could you do to ease effects of France’s 2021 inheritance law?

Mr de Pessemier said Gonesse’s mairie has now asked for a copy of her marriage certificate to be sent from authorities in Clermont-l'Hérault and for Catherine to provide a copy of her identity papers so they can correct the error.

Once received, it will take two to three months for the mairie to update her marital status accordingly, he said.

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