The French PACS System: Everything You Need to Know
You and your partner want to make things a bit more official, but not, like, marriage official. You want to know how to get PACSed, the French equivalent to what you may already know as a civil union. Read on for our quick and easy guide to everything you need to know about the French civil partnership.
What is PACS?
PACS stands for “pacte civil de solidarité,” and represents a legal union between two people of either sex in France. It states that these two people live together and can declare French taxes together, as well as legally split possessions.
It was originally created in 1999 to give same-sex couples the same tax benefits and legal protections that straight married couples received. Nowadays, PACS is used by straight and same-sex couples alike.
And it’s not just for romantic relationships! Roommates can also apply for the civil solidarity pact in order to receive certain tax benefits, or be able to apply for the Private or Family Life visa (Visa Vie Privée et Familiale), which can allow a non-French partner to stay and work in France. This is similar to a regular carte de séjour, however it is done after a PACS partnership has been made and both partners can prove they’ve been living together for one year.
Both partners in the PACS union sign a contract which is then stamped by a court clerk (your local Tribunal D’Instance). Courts need fifteen days notice beforehand. A ceremony at the town hall is also available for more romantic partnerships!
PACS is not recognizable in some other countries such as the United States. If you’re part of a PACS union in France, you are still considered “single” in the U.S. on official documents. In France, however, you and your partner would check the “pacsé” box on official papers instead of “celibataire.”
Are my partner and I eligible for PACS?
You are eligible for PACS if:
- You are living together with your partner
- You are not related
- Neither person is married
- Both people are of age
There is no time limit to how long you must be living with your partner before applying for PACS.
If neither person is a French national, at least one person must be a resident of France. Neither person can be in a legal relationship with a person from another country. This must be verified through a certificat de coutume, stating each person is legally “single.”
What documents do I need to apply for PACS?
To apply for PACS, you will both need:
- Your personalized PACS agreement (Cerfa form n°15726*02)
- Your joint PACS agreement (the previous form again)
- A certificate of honour (attestation sur l’honneur) to confirm that you and your partner are not related (Cerfa form n°15725*02)
- An attestation confirming the shared address of you and your partner.
If you are a French resident, you will need:
- A valid identity document (passport, identity card, etc.) and a photocopy
- A full copy of your birth certificate or an extract with filiation dated within three months (which can be requested from your local town hall, or mairie, and is free to order)
If you are not a French resident, you will need:
- A birth certificate of six months or less, accompanied by a translation by a certified translator or a consular authority. This may also need to be accompanied by an apostille.
- An original identity document (passport, identity card) as well as a photocopy
- A non-PACS certificate dated within three months, which you can request via mail from the Central Civil Registry (Service Central D'État Civil) using Cerfa form n°12819*05 or send it by email with this template
- A certificate of custom (certificate de coutume) from the embassy or diplomatic entity that represents your country within France confirming that you are single, of sound mind and not a minor (costs depend on the country)
- If you’ve been living in France for over a year, you’ll also need a certificate of non-inscription au repertoire civil, stating you don’t have a criminal record. This must be requested by mail from the Service Central D'État Civil or by email. More information on what to include in this request can be found on this webpage.
How do I apply for PACS in France?
Once you get all these documents together, visit your local mairie with the dossier, both of your passports and a document confirming you live together (i.e. a utility bill) to register for PACS. Only one partner needs to go.
Keep in mind that PACS appointments are set several months in advance, and some of your documents may need to be requested again if they expire past your appointment date.
If you need to send some of the documents mentioned above, the address for the Service Central D'État Civil is as follows:
Service central d'état civil - Ministère chargé des affaires étrangères
Département « Exploitation »
11, rue de la Maison Blanche - 44941 Nantes Cedex 09
After you finish your appointment, you will receive a receipt of your PACS which will be valid for three months. The PACS will be registered in the city hall of the birthplace of the French partner as well as the Tribunal d’Instance where they live with the foreign partner.
After three months, you’ll have to request a certificate of your PACS status to be officially recognized by the state.
What happens once I enter a PACS partnership?
After all this preparation and paperwork, what exactly are you getting (and not getting) once you sign up for PACS? Here’s the skinny:
PACS and money
Each partner will still retain ownership of the assets and possessions they had before entering PACS. Anything accumulated afterwards will still be divided 50/50 and each partner still owns what they have accumulated throughout the partnership if the partnership ends.
Partners are responsible for each other’s debts, these incurred after the PACS agreement was made, unless the debt is excessive.
Both partners’ incomes will be taken into account when applying for housing allowances, family allowances, social welfare (RMI - Revenu Minimum D'Insertion) or disability allowances.
Employers will take PACS into account if a partner needs to take a day off for a birth, death or holiday in relation to the other partner.
Being in this type of French civil partnership allows people to minimize income tax liability. Both partners must complete a joint tax return as they are taxed on the total income of their household.
When filing taxes, three sets of returns must be completed:
- One for each partner for the period of the tax year before the PACS agreement
- One joint household return for the period of the tax year after the PACS agreement
Partners may also need to pay a wealth tax (Impôt sur la Fortune), calculated on the joint amount of their worldwide assets.
PACS and property
Here’s something that differentiates PACS vs marriage: if one partner dies, the other partner has no inheritance rights unless a previous agreement (régime de l'indivision) states otherwise.
The deceased partner can leave their estate to the surviving partner if there are no remaining family members. This partner can also benefit from tax exemptions and allowances.
If renting property, the surviving partner is automatically given the lease and they can continue to live there. If the deceased partner owned property, the surviving partner can live there for up to one year, regardless of any remaining family members.
In a marriage, the spouse is automatically entitled to a share of the deceased’s inheritance, and is allowed to live in the estate for as long as they like.
PACS and your social rights
Another difference when it comes to PACS vs marriage: partners in PACS do not have any custody, adoption or lineage rights. If you choose to adopt, you would only have access to individual adoption, which means only one partner would legally be considered the child’s parent.
Another thing is that your partner would not be entitled to your pension in the event of your death, whereas a married partner would be entitled to at least part of it.
Becoming part of a PACS partnership does not ensure your right to live in France.You will still need a carte de séjour to legally stay in the country. You are eligible to apply for the Private or Family Life visa (Visa Vie Privée et Familiale), though, which can allow you to stay and work in France. However, you will have to prove that you have been living with your partner for one year.
How can I change a PACS agreement?
You can alter your agreement at your local Tribunal d’Instance or by registered mail. Both partners must agree on the changes, as this will be changed on the original agreement by an official.
How can I end a PACS agreement?
A PACS agreement can be terminated at the place where it was first registered. Ending the agreement can be made:
- By the court, with a statement by both partners confirming the termination
- If one partner dies
- If one partner marries
- If one partner requests the termination at the Tribunal d’Instance
Good luck with getting PACSed!