French gay marriage laws confusing for expats

Recently, both the British and French Parliaments witnessed fierce debates on the topic of gay marriage. The proposed law has brought forth the rights of such couples, and the differences between the legislative systems in the two countries.

When it comes to the British expats in France, they would find it difficult to determine the precise law that applies to their condition. This can be more profound in the case of couples wherein both the individuals are British nationals living in France. British expats would have to learn the differences in the laws of the two countries in order to be able to safeguard their rights.

The French law doesn’t provide any cover or protection to cohabitees who have not signed any contract. Such an arrangement doesn’t allow for any compensation from any side in case there is a breakage in the relationship at any stage. Therefore, the “common law” partner is equally exposed in both the countries.

The only exception when the couple can have any obligation when separating is if they cause serious damage to the other or when they work together. Exception would also be taken in case of any issue of children is noted in the below-mentioned information.

Relatively, France’s Socialist government of 1999 had worked hard to pass the Civil Solidarity Pact, more popularly known as ‘Pacs.’ It was a proposal that allowed two adults of any sex to live life together. The Pact required such couples to register a basic declaration with the court clerk, and termination could be made effective by just a registered letter from a spouse to the other. There was no requirement of any type of ‘divorce’ proceedings.

The partners would determine freely about their contribution and would also mention in the contract if the assets procured during the relation is to be taken as common or separate. If one of the cohabitees dies, the other partner would be considered as a spouse according to the ‘Pacs.’ The partner would then be exempted from paying any inheritance tax if a will is already in place. In France, any couple can sign the ‘Pacs’, including those from the UK.

On the other hand, the current law here doesn’t provide any protection to the rights of cohabitees when they choose to separate or in the eventuality of the death of a partner. Therefore, British partners living in France would find the ‘Pacs’ system to be the better system that can protect their rights.


One of the main differences between the concerned legal systems in the UK and French is the way child related issues are treated in case such a relationship breaks down. As noticed in the paternity suit involving Rachida Dati, the former member of Nicolas Sarkozy’s cabinet, the unique thing about the French law is that it takes all types of children to be the same. Both lawful and illegitimate children would be entitled to equal inheritance from both the parents, without concern whether there is a marriage pact or not.

In addition, childrens right to allowance doesn’t have any clear age limit. It is not surprising to come across suits against English parents living in France for not providing financial support to their children above 30.

Same-sex couples

France may mainly have Catholic customs, but its stance for same-sex relationships has been forward-looking compared to what it is here. Even from the perspective of patrimony and tax laws, the system in France protects the same-sex partners’ rights compared to countries that already allow homosexual marriage.

If the recent proposal for legalising gay marriage passes and becomes a law, the rights can increase further. Once the proposal passes in the parliament, homosexual couples would also get the same protection offered to marriages involving heterosexual couples.

However, problems could still appear when such communions go beyond the borders. As long as there is no agreeable legal structure across different nations, the British nationals living in France would have to reach solicitors both in France and here in their country to share their concerns on their rights.