Twenty years since its introduction, how does PACS compare to marriage in France?

Twenty years since its introduction, how does PACS compare to marriage in France?
Photo: AFP
The institution of PACS is now 20 years old and since 1999 194,000 couples in France have registered for one. But what is a PACS and how is it different from getting married?
Whether you choose to enter a PACS (pacte civil de solidarité or 'civil union') or go the whole hog and get hitched in France, it's best to first find out what each scenario would mean for you and your partner.
The PACS only exists in France and was introduced back in 1999 as a way of giving same-sex couples similar rights and benefits to those given to married couples. 
Of course, since 2013 same-sex couple have been able to marry in France but that hasn't stopped people, including heterosexual couples, choosing to become pacsé instead.
In fact back in 2008, 40 percent of PACS unions were dissolved so that the same couple could then marry but each system has advantages and disadvantages. 
Here's what you need to know. 
Photo: AFP
The basics
  • You can get out of a PACS union more easily than a marriage
Divorcing in France can be a lengthy, complicated and expensive process involving lawyers but if you are pacsé all you need to do is send an official letter off to your local court to inform them of your decision. 
  • If you are PACS you don't have the same inheritance or adoption rights (more on that below). 
  • You can declare joint taxes, receive the tax benefits of being in a couple, transfer rental contracts between partners, and employers must take PACS into account for time off work for births, deaths, and holidays.
  • The usual rules for being married, such as not already being married to someone else, not being related, and being of sound age and mind, also apply to the PACS.
  • After becoming either pacsé or married you have to have a single address for official purposes.
Photo: AFP
Adoption rights
In France, only married couples can jointly adopt a child. 
That means that if you are pacsé and would like to adopt, you only have access to individual adoption which means only one of you would officially be the child's parent. 
In fact, adoption isn't all that easy for couples who are married, with the rules stipulating that a couple must have been married for more than two years or over the age of 28 before they apply. 
Health Insurance
In terms of social protection, and particularly health insurance, pacsé couples are considered to be the same as married couples.
On the other hand, your partner would not be entitled to your pension in the event of your death if you are pacsé rather than married even if you have children together. 
Meanwhile a spouse or divorced former spouse is entitled, on a means-tested basis, to a portion of the deceased's pension.
Photo: AFP
When it comes to both income tax and wealth tax pacsé couples are treated the same way as married couples. 
One of the biggest differences between a PACS union and a marriage in France is that if you are married, even in the absence of a will, the surviving spouse is automatically entitled to a share of the deceased's inheritance.
On top of that, the surviving spouse has the automatic right to continue living in the family home. 
However for the surviving person in a pacsé union there is no automatic right to any of the above. Instead you would have to have written a will stipulating those conditions if that is what you would like to happen. 
That means that if you are pacsé then the surviving partner is not as protected as they would be if you were married however you can easily get around this by writing a will. 

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