Marriage contract : choose their matrimonial regime

Updated on Thursday 10 February 2022

A system of separation of property, a universal community, a system of joint ownership reduced to the property acquired after the marriage: the marriage contract makes it possible to prepare, together, one's matrimonial regime.


Legal definition of marriage contract

Marriage implies making commitments to each other. 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 appliacable to relations between spouses.

The marriage contract signed by the future spouses before the celebration of the union allows them to define in a precific way what will be the property relations of the spouses during the marriage, the fate of the property, the benefits conferred on the spouses.

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. 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.

If the spouses do not draw up a contract when they get married

The spouses are subject, sometimes withouth knowing it, to the scheme of joint ownership reduced to the property acquired after the marriage (in french "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.

If the spouses 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. All property owned before or after the marriage remains the property of the husband, as are his wages or income from his property.

Each spouse manages his/her assets as he/she sees. An exception however exists for the residence of the couple: to sell it, it is necessary to obtain the agreement of both spouses even if the property belongs to only one.

In this system, the spouses therefore maintain full patrimonial independence. However, it is possible to include in this contract a clause for pooling certain goods, such as family housing.

If the spouses choose the separation of property

This regime 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.

Upon its dissolution, the french notaire assesses the enrichment of each partner during the marriage and which will be divided equally between the spouses.

If the spouses choose the universal community of assets

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 one and the same commun mass.

The downside is that the joint-ownership pool will be definitively liable for any of the spouses’ present and future debts.