Marriage contracts are essential : they allow to prepare your matrimonial regime (régime matrimonial) for a serene life together. Marriage contracts are chosen according to the spouses’ initial situation, the property they intend to acquire and their career needs. Your notaire will help you choose the most suitable marriage contract for you.
Marrying implies making commitments to each other. While the articles of the French Civil Code are read aloud at the city hall (which is the marriage registry office) stating that the spouses are to be faithful and provide mutual help and assistance, the matrimonial regime sets the rules that apply to the spouses during marriage and also afterwards in the event of separation, divorce or death.
If the spouses do not draw up a contract when they get married they often unwittingly adopt the scheme of joint ownership reduced to the property acquired after the marriage (régime légal de communauté réduite aux acquêts).
Everything you buy during your marriage belongs to both of you, even if you pay for it alone. It is intended to cover most situations but is, however, limited in particular family or property situations such as when the spouses are self-employed and their work incurs financial risks. A more suitable status then has to be adopted.
Drawing up a marriage contract means deciding on a matrimonial property scheme and suiting it to your needs.
Your notaire, who is the only professional authorised to draw up a marriage contract, will explain the various possible options. Based on your decision, he/she will tailor a matrimonial regime to suit your requirements.
If, for example, you choose basic separation of property regime (régime de séparation de biens pure et simple), nothing is jointly owned.
This matrimonial regime makes the difference between what each spouse owns on the day of marriage and also any subsequent property, assets, investments and income from property. Each spouse manages his/her assets as he/she sees fit except for the family home which may not be sold unless both parties agree, even though only one of the spouses may be the owner.
It is, nevertheless, possible to include a varying degree of joint ownership in a marriage based on separation of property.
It is also possible to adopt a regime that combines separation and joint ownership: dividing property acquired after the marriage. This scheme operates like the separation of property during marriage and becomes joint ownership at the end of the marriage. The notaire assesses the enrichment of each partner during the marriage and the profits are divided equally between the spouses.
Finally, if you opt for universal community of assets (communauté universelle), all the assets owned by the spouses on the day of marriage, the assets they may subsequently acquire or own through inheritance, gifts or bequest, constitute a pool.
The downside is that the joint-ownership pool will be definitively liable for any of the spouses’ present and future debts.
Irrespective of the regime chosen, personalised clauses may be included in the marriage contract, for example, entitling the survivor to first choice of property over the other heirs, in the event of death of one of the spouses.
Marriage contracts facilitate daily life and make it easier to settle major issues. They make certain inevitable events in family life less worrying.
The law makes it possible to make any amendments to marriage contracts. Contact your notaire for details on how to draw up your marriage contract.