As an American living in France, you might wonder what the implications of getting a PACS are. After reading this article, you will know all the benefits and obligations of signing a French PACS and how to proceed.
- What’s PACS?
- How to use the word PACS?
- PACS vs concubinage vs union libre
- PACS vs marriage
- Who can get PACSed?
- Why get PACSed?
- Rights and benefits of PACS in France
- Obligations and responsabilities
- How to enter a PACS?
- Required documents
- How to modify a PACS agreement?
- Is it possible to get PACSed in the United States?
- Can you take your partner’s last name?
- Can you get PACSed right after a divorce?
- How to dissolve a PACS?
- Can you organize a ceremony?
PACS stands for Pacte Civil de Solidarité (solidarity civil pact). This is a contractual form of civil union between two persons of the same sex or of opposite sex. It is an agreement that defines how two persons living together are going to organize their life. A PACS has a legal value in France but the United States does not recognize it. It provides an intermediate status between concubinage or union libre and marriage.
In French, you can use PACS as a verb “nous allons nous pacser” or as a noun “un pacs entre deux personnes”.
PACS vs. concubinage or union libre
Living with someone without being married or pacsé is called concubinage (domestic partnership) or union libre (free union). There is absolutely no commitment in concubinage or free union. Concubinage does not offer social and fiscal benefits like PACS does.
Some institutions do offer some advantages to concubins, provided they show a certificat de concubinage (certificate of concubinage). You can get this certificate at the mairie (local city hall) but you should call first as some mairies do not provide this service. If your local mairie does not deliver certificat de concubinage, then you can use this online déclaration de concubinage. Since a certificat de concubinage has no legal value, you do not have to take any action to end it.
PACS vs. marriage
PACS offers a legal status carrying some of the benefits of marriage. Marrying a French citizen will open the path for a future naturalization whereas signing a PACS will not. Another important difference is that the United States does not recognize it. Ending a PACS is much easier, way faster and less expensive than getting a divorce. There is no need to dissolve a PACS prior to a marriage as the dissolution happens automatically the day of the wedding.
Who can get PACSed?
Two persons older than 18, not already pacsés or married and who do not have direct family ties can PACS each other. Technically, you can PACS a cousin but not your sister. Check out the French government rules regarding family ties. Two Americans can enter a PACS relationship in France as there is no condition on nationality.
Why get PACSed?
Pacs was voted in 1999 as an alternative to legal marriage. It is a way of officializing and organizing a couple’s life. It provides a legal framework to non-married couples and gives them some social and fiscal advantages.
Rights and benefits of PACS in France
A PACS gives couples legal, fiscal and social advantages.
Social benefits of PACS in France
Plafonds de ressources (resources thresholds to qualify for benefits) are calculated based on earnings and resources from both partners. This affects benefits like allocations familiales (family aids), allocation logements (housing aids) and the revenu de solidarité active or RSA (income aids).
Professional benefits of PACS in France
Work wise, PACSed partners receive the same advantages as married couples. For instance, an employee gets days off for signing a PACS, adopting a child or accompanying his/her pregnant partner to some of his/her mandatory medical exams. When both partners work for the same company, they are entitled to take their vacations at the same time.
Immigration benefits of PACS in France
If you are American, PACSing a French citizen makes you eligible for a carte de séjour vie privée et familiale. One condition though is to have been living with your partner for a year. Carte de séjour vie privée et familiale allows you to stay and work in France. To prove that you have been living together, you can provide a rental lease, any utility bill or a RIB with both names.
Even when only one of the PACSed partner sign a rental lease, both partners are responsible for paying the rent.
You are exonerated from paying taxes on a donation to your PACSed partner if the donation is less than €80,724. Above this amount, you benefit from a special rate whereas concubins are taxed at a 60% rate on donations.
Unlike married people, PACSed partners need to write a will if they want their partner to inherit. When a will exists, the living partner is exonerated from paying droits de succession (inheritance taxes).
Obligations and responsibilities
Signing a PACS means taking on some obligations and responsibilities. Couples commit to:
- helping each other financially for food, lodging and health expenses
- assisting each other when in need, in situations like illness or unemployment
- living together
Debts contracted for common everyday expenses are the responsibility of both partners. Tax wise, PACSed couples have an obligation to file jointly.
How to enter a PACS
Two partners can sign a PACS at the mairie (local town hall) for free or at a notarial office. Be aware that using a notary costs around €400. Both partners have to be present to sign the convention (agreement). Partners decide together what to put in the agreement, which must be in French. It can be a simple will to live together or it can contain more specific details.
When a couple does not specify otherwise in their agreement, the couple lives in a régime de la séparation des biens (common law property). It is nonetheless possible to adopt a régime de l’indivision des biens (community property ) by writing it in your PACS agreement.
Fill out cerfa n°15726*02 (read What’s a Cerfa? if you’re not familiar with this type of document) to use the standardized pact. It can be convenient to start your application online. Some mairies accept online pre-application (you will still need to sign the agreement in person though). Make sure you keep your agreement in a safe place as the mairie or notaire do not keep a copy of it.
Documents for a French partner
- convention de PACS (your own agreement or cerfa n°15726*02)
- cerfa n°15725*02 Déclaration conjointe d’un pacte civil de solidarité. This is a declaration that both partners are not already married or pacsé, that they are not relatives and that they share a home.
- birth certificate, no older than three months
- pièce d’identité (ID)
- livret de famille if you are divorced or if you are a widow.
Documents for an American partner
- convention de PACS (your own agreement or cerfa n°15726*02)
- Cerfa n°15725*02 Déclaration conjointe d’un pacte civil de solidarité. This is a declaration that both partners are not already married or pacsé, that they are not relatives and that they share a home.
- copy of U.S. birth certificate with apostille, no older than 6 month old. Join a certified French translation of your birth certificate.
- copy of a valid U.S. passport
- certificat de coutume to prove that you are single. Get your certificat de coutume from the U.S. embassy in France.
- certificate that you are not already pacsé, no older than 3 months. You can request your non-PACS certificate online or Fill out cerfa 12819*06 and follow the filing instructions.
- divorce decree if you are divorced
The mention of PACS (and its termination) is written in the margin of the birth certificate of each French partner along with the identity of the other partner. For PACSed partners born outside France, PACS is recorded in an official file of foreign PACS at the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs.
How to modify a PACS agreement?
You can modify your PACS agreement at any time during your union by writing a convention modificative de PACS. Send the form to the local town hall where the initial PACS was recorded. One partner cannot modify the agreement unilaterally. You can modify the agreement on your own for free or you can use a notary. You should join cerfa n° 15790, déclaration conjointe de modification d’un PACS, which lists the initial agreement and the IDs of the two partners.
Is it possible to sign a PACS in the United States?
It is possible to enter a PACS in the U.S. as long as one of the partner is French. Reach out to your nearest French consulate or French embassy in the United States. Both partners need to be present to sign the agreement.
Can you take your PACSed partner’s last name?
PACS has no influence on your last name. You cannot take your partner’s last name like you can when you get married.
Can you sign a PACS right after a divorce?
No delay is necessary to get a PACS after a divorce.
How to dissolve a PACS
Depending on the scenario, you do not always have to take action to dissolve a PACS:
- Automatic dissolution: If one of the PACSed partners get married or dies, the pact is automatically dissolved.
- Mutual agreement: When both partners decide to end the PACS, they should fill out cerfa n°15789 and send it via lettre recommandée with avis de réception to the local town hall where their PACS was recorded. Join a copy of a valid justificatif d’identité (proof of ID) for each partner.
- Unilateral dissolution: If one partner decides unilaterally to end a PACS, he should notify his partner by the intermediary of a huissier de justice (County Court bailiff). Use the online annuaire of huissiers de justice (bailiff phonebook) to find a huissier nearby. The dissolution notification is called a signification and it costs around €150. The huissier de justice will notify the local town hall where the PACS was initially recorded.
Report a dissolution to Les Impôts
To report the ending of a PACS to the French government and adjust your taxes accordingly, go to the official french tax website. Fill out the details of your dissolution in the “Gérer mon prélèvement à la source” section. You new taux de prélèvement will be automatically adjusted. This notification will also modify your quotient familial, used to calculate your impôt sur le revenu (income taxes).
Report a dissolution to La Caf
If you receive social benefits, make sure to report your PACS dissolution to La Caf in the changement de situation (change of situation) section.
Can you organize a ceremony?
Some local town halls give you the option of undergoing a formal ceremony. It might be a good way to officialize your union with friends and family. Call your local town hall to check if they do perform PACS ceremonies as unfortunately, most mairies do not.
I got married in Las Vegas some twenty something years ago. What about you? Did you enter a PACS in France? What was it like? Share your experience in the comment section below.