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Business owners - choosing a matrimonial property regime


A couple's matrimonial property regime determines the rules that apply to the couple and their assets.

Choosing the right regime is of crucial importance in relations between the spouses and also in their relations with third parties. You should consider whether it would be appropriate to sign a marriage contract before you get married.

  • What is the purpose of a matrimonial property regime?

    • The couple and their assets are subject to a set of legal rules known as the "matrimonial property regime". This regime determines the rights and obligations of each of the spouses with respect to their assets and liabilities.

  • If the couple do not choose a regime, which matrimonial property regime applies?

    • At the present time, if there is no marriage contract, the future couple is automatically subject to the statutory regime—the communauté de biens réduite aux acquêts—which is the default regime for marriages celebrated since 1 February 1966.

    • Under this regime, everything that the spouses acquire after the marriage belongs to them jointly, except for items received by inheritance , or gift . Vis-à-vis third parties, both spouses commit not only their own assets, but also the jointly owned assets.

  • What choice do couples have?

    • French law offers couples solutions for all situations, taking account of the family, their assets, and the ages of those concerned.

    • There are three major types of matrimonial property regime:
      - the séparation de biens regime under which all the assets are held separately;
      - the statutory regime or community [mentioned above];
      - the participation aux acquêts regime [which is a hybrid of the other two, in that property is held separately during the marriage, but deemed to have been a communauté de biens réduite aux acquêts on the dissolution of the marriage]. Each of these property regimes may be tailored to suit the couple by the addition of specific clauses.

  • What is the best option for a business owner?

    • There are no good or bad matrimonial property regimes, however, there could be a regime that is particularly suitable or unsuitable for the couple's needs and wishes.

    • For a business owner (whether a trader, artisan, farmer, professional, sole trader or manufacturer, etc.), choosing the right matrimonial property regime is particularly important, given the risks involved in the professional life of a person running their own business. In every case, the business owner should be aware of the consequences of their activity on the interests of the family. Is it desirable to expose the family to proceedings that might be commenced by the business's creditors? Conversely, would it be advantageous to use the family assets in order to inspire confidence in one's partners, suppliers, or the bank?

  • Will the business owner need their spouse in order to take certain decisions?

    • Yes, in certain matrimonial property regimes, the spouse's agreement is necessary for transactions such as buying items on credit, borrowing, guarantees, selling assets, or leasing.

    • The business owner may wish to preserve their freedom of action if they think that this is necessary for the smooth running of the business; they must therefore be able to decide quickly, i.e. without consulting anyone else. Conversely, in other situations, the couple will want both of them to be involved in certain decisions, so that the opportunities and risks taken by the business are shared.

    • All these situations, and many others such as divorce, survival on death or transfers, must be envisaged in the light of each individual's personal situation, and discussed in detail with the notaire.

  • Is it possible to change one's matrimonial property regime?

    • Yes, the law allows couples to change their regime after two years of marriage.

    • If the couple has no minor child, the procedure is relatively simple, and can be effected with only the assistance of a notaire.

    • Conversely, or if an adult child or creditor opposes the change of matrimonial regime , judicial authorisation is required. The procedure, which is onerous and takes several months, involves going before the family judge.

    • Furthermore, the change can be difficult to obtain—if the business is in difficulties, for example.


It is preferable to have a suitable marriage contract drafted at the outset. If, on the day of your marriage, you do not intend to set up a business but feel that you might want to do so in the future, consult your notaire. They can help you choose the right marriage contract from day one.

See also


French property market report / N°31