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How to get a Pacs in France and what differences to marriage

Can foreigners get a Pacs or does one of you have to be French? What documents do you need? How much does it cost? We explain France’s civil partnership

Pacs’ are increasing in popularity in France compared to marriages, as they offer a simpler alternative Pic: Lordn / Shutterstock

Firstly, what is a Pacs?

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. 

In general, it is easier to enter into and easier to end than a marriage. It suits people who want to be officially recognised as partners, without necessarily having all of the complications of marriage – including elements such as financial entanglement and lengthy divorce procedures. 

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

It has progressively become more popular, and today there are almost as many people getting a Pacs as there are getting married. 

There was just under 209,000 Pacs in 2018 (the latest complete data), of which around 8,600 were between same-sex couples. 

While in 2019, there were 227,000 marriages, of which around 6,000 were between same-sex couples. Marriages, contrary to Pacs’, are becoming less popular. 

Who can get a Pacs?

Anyone who is 18 or above can get a Pacs in France, regardless of nationality – as long as they are resident in France. People who are closely related cannot get a Pacs.  

What is the difference between getting a Pacs and getting married?

  • Marriage is considered an institution, whereas a Pacs is considered a simple contract between two people
  • One notable rule that applies to couples in a Pacs in France, but not to married couples, is that they do not receive their partner’s pension.
    In France, upon the death of a married person, the surviving spouse can receive a “pension de reversion”, which is essentially a share of the pension the deceased would have received upon retirement (or was already receiving since retirement).
    The amount received by a surviving spouse is usually between 50-60% of the pension, but a surviving civil partner receives nothing.
  • A Will is required to guarantee the surviving civil partner inherits from the French estate as, under French intestacy, a Pacs partner (and therefore a civil partner) will not benefit from a right to the French estate. It is not possible to be in both a civil partnership and Pacs as both are mutually recognised in each country.
  • Pacs is not recognised in every country in the world, unlike a marriage, which most likely is. This should be noted if the country relocates.
    It should be noted that a French Pacs (whether between a different-sex or same-sex couple) is recognised by the UK. You should check your own country’s rules on this.
  • A Pacs between a foreigner and a French person might help the former obtain a residency card but, unlike marriage, it does not provide a fast-track to nationality.
    It means that if a British person without residency in France gets a Pacs with a British person who is a resident in France, it may help the former get a visa to live in France.
  • A Pacs can be ended unilaterally (meaning you do not need the permission of both members of the couple). This can be done at the mairie where the couple registered the Pacs.
  • Couples can choose in the convention de Pacs not to divide up their goods, meaning that in the case the Pacs is ended, each member of the couple keeps their own purchases, goods or properties.
  • There is no legal expectation of fidelity, as there is in marriage

Advantages and disadvantages (compared to marriages)

Some people in France choose to become Pacsed because the partner benefits from the same exemption from inheritance tax as a spouse, as opposed to 60% between couples living together in an informal relationship.

However, unlike a marriage, a Pacs partner does not automatically inherit, so it is vital to make a Will. He or she does benefit from some rights to stay in the family home in the case of death, but they are more limited than in marriage.

Other differences include the fact that a Pacs couple cannot jointly adopt a child, a Pacs partner cannot claim part of a deceased partner's pension (pension de réversion) and does not qualify for the allocation de veuvage (widower’s benefit).

As with a married couple, a Pacs couple make a joint tax declaration and they have similar social security and healthcare rights.

What documents are required?

For French nationals

  • Identification document (still valid) – this can be a passport or French ID card. One original and one photocopy required
  • A ‘convention de PACS’, signed and dated by both partners
  • A ‘déclaration conjointe d’un PACS’ (this also includes a form declaring the two partners not to be close relations)
  • A birth certificate dated from no more than three months ago
  • Proof of address

For foreigner residents

  • Identification document (still valid). One original and one photocopy
  • A ‘convention de PACS’, signed and dated by both partners
  • A ‘déclaration conjointe d’un PACS’ (this also includes a form declaring the two partners not to be close relations)
  • A birth certificate dated no more than six months ago
  • A ‘certificat de coutume’ (proving the person is single)
  • A ‘certificat de non-Pacs’ dated from no more than three months ago (proving the individuals are not Pacsed to someone else)
  • Proof of address

Understanding (some of) the documents

The convention de PACS: This document serves as the legal basis by which goods and property will be divided within the relationship. 

Couples can either draw up a personalised version of this, which they will present to the civil registrar, or they can fill out a standardised form, known as Cerfa n°15726*02 (the majority of couples chose this latter option). 

To fill out the Cerfa form, couples will need to provide personal details (name, age, place of birth, etc). 

They will also need to choose how they would like to manage the finances in their relationship. 

Article one of the form is about ‘material aid’. Couples can choose to support each other financially based proportionally on their earnings, or to fix an upper limit of money for how much financial aid they provide to each other (per year). 

Article three relates to the separation of goods. Couples can either choose to follow the régime légal de la séparation des patrimoines, meaning they are entitled to what they individually buy. For example, if one partner buys a car, that car belongs only to them and not to both of them. Or they can choose to follow a régime de l’indivision des biens, meaning that all goods bought once the Pacs is active are separated equally between the partners. 

The déclaration conjointe d’un PACS: This serves as the couple’s joint declaration of their wish to get a Pacs. It includes the declaration, and also a promise of not being close relations and that they live together. 

You will need to provide personal details, including information about parents, including their place of birth. 

On this form, you will also be asked if you want to use the standardised convention de PACS (Cerfa n°15726*02) or a personalised one. 

A birth certificate (for non-French nationals)

French birth certificates are not just given at the moment of a person’s birth, but are constantly updated throughout their life.

This is not the case in many countries, including the UK. 

It means that non-French nationals looking to get a Pacs will need to get their birth certificate legalised (an Apostille). For British people, this can be done via a government service at this link.

It costs £30 per document, plus postage fee (which is £17.50 for delivery to France, or £5 for delivery to a UK address). 

A certificat de coutume: This proves that a person is not in a relationship with someone else (marriage, civil partnership, etc.). This document does not exist in the UK or many other countries around the world.

For UK citizens, you have to fill out a self-declared form, which can be found at this link.

For US citizens, find the form and see more information here.

These forms may need to be ‘notarised’, meaning authorised by a notaire. Your local mairie, in charge of the Pacs process, will tell you if this is the case. 

A certificat de non-Pacs: This document shows that you do not have a Pacs with anyone else. You can apply for this form online, at this link

Where do you get Pacsed?

You can get a Pacs either at your local mairie or by a notaire. It is free at the mairies, while it could cost around €400 if you choose to get a Pacs through a notaire. See more here.

You can also get a Pacs if you do not live in France, although in that case one person in the couple must be a French national. They can get a Pacs at a French consulate abroad. 

Applying for a Pacs? 

You should consult your local mairie about the steps needed to get a Pacs. In some instances, you will have to make an appointment to drop off all the required documents, and then get a second appointment to finalise the process once the documents have been checked. 

In other cases, such as in Nice (Alpes-Maritimes), for example, you can submit all your documents online in advance, and only need one appointment at the mairie just to finalise the process. 

To find out more about the Pacs process in your local area, see this webpage, and scroll down to the very bottom where it says, “Pacs dans votre commune”. There you can find the relevant information for your area. 

How long does it take to get a Pacs?

It can take between four weeks to six months, depending on how long it takes each person to assemble all the required documents. The processes can be expedited by going through a notaire, though this is more costly. 
Getting an appointment at your local mairie also depends on available timeslots, but will likely involve a wait of around six weeks. 

Is there a ceremony?

Unlike a wedding, a Pacs is often without a formal ceremony and speech from the mayor, though some mairies do offer this as an option. 

There is no need for witnesses and the partners retain their surnames. As with a marriage, people have the right to four paid days off work.

If you have been Pacsed in France and want to share your experience of the process with us, let us know at news@connexionfrance.com

*Update: This article was updated on 01 / 02 / 22 to rectify an error made in the second bullet point under the sub-heading 'What is the difference between getting a Pacs and getting married?'.  

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