There is a warning from notaire that couples in France who were married abroad may have their ‘marriage regime’ changed automatically, however civil partnerships are not affected!
This change can affect how assets are dealt with in regards to inheritance and property ownership, as well as how assets will be split in the case of divorce.
Whether married in France or abroad, all couples are subject to specific rules regarding how property – including homes, money in bank accounts, and businesses – is owned within the marriage and what happens in the case of divorce or death.
If you live in France it is therefore important to know what regime applies.
Default regime for marriages that take place in France
For marriages that take place in France, the default regime is communauté réduite aux acquêts, in which property acquired after the marriage, excluding inherited property, is jointly owned, whereas each spouse owns individually any property they owned prior to the marriage.
Marriages that took place outside France
Marriages that took place abroad are usually treated by France by the rules in place in the country the marriage happened.
This means, for example, that UK marriages fall under the séparation de biens regime, where each partner individually owns property they paid for or were given, unless a ‘pre-nup’ was made stating otherwise.
The same applies to most US marriages, but Californian ones follow the same rules as France.
Automatic changes for couples wed between these dates
One exception relates to marriages that took place between September 1, 1992, and January 29, 2019. This is due to changes in international treaties and rules in force at the time.
In this case, if a couple moves to France, after 10 years their regime is deemed to default to the standard French regime with regard to assets acquired from that point, unless a specific regime was declared at the time of marriage.
This also happens, in the case of these marriages, immediately on moving if both partners are French, or from the time of the nationality change if they both become French.
Many couples do not know what their regime is, which can lead to complications when buying a house or after a death, especially if some of their possessions are subject to a different regime, due to an automatic change having occurred.
If you are unsure as to how these changes may affect you, the best thing to do is speak to a notaire.