The French PACS (Civil Solidarity Pact)

The PACS (Civil Solidarity Pact), which came into effect in France on November 15, 1999, is a cohabitation contract between two adults, either heterosexual or homosexual, who wish to organize a shared life. The PACS, which must be concluded by a joint declaration, can be entered into not only by French citizens but also by foreign nationals. However, foreign couples must reside in France to be eligible to enter into a PACS.

Citizens wishing to enter into the pact must go to their municipality of residence in France, which will verify the conditions and the necessary documents for signing. In the case of foreign partners, the town hall may request additional documents such as the Certificat de législation et coutume (this document will be prepared according to the legislation of the foreign partner’s country of origin).

Once all the required documents are gathered, it will be necessary to draft and sign the PACS agreement, which must be written strictly in French. The agreement can also be drafted by a lawyer or a notary. The PACS creates rights and duties between the partners, such as mutual economic assistance, mutual solidarity, etc.

The default property regime established by the PACS between the partners, if no special provisions are stipulated in the agreement, will be separation of property. Finally, the PACS loses its effectiveness and value in case of separation, at the initiative of one or both partners, in case of marriage, and in case of the death of one of the partners. It is important to know that, additionally, if both partners reside abroad, and it is clear that at least one of them has French nationality, the PACS can be concluded by contacting the competent French consulate.

In Italy, however, the PACS has no legal value and cannot be transcribed in the Italian civil status registers, as Law No. 76 of May 20, 2016, which came into force on June 5, 2016, on the “Regulation of civil unions between persons of the same sex and regulation of de facto unions”, states that only marriages contracted abroad can be transcribed in Italy as civil unions (in the case of a homosexual couple) or as marriages (in the case of a heterosexual couple), and not civil solidarity pacts.

And in Spain, England, and Portugal?

In Spain, the Spanish Civil Code does not contemplate the PACS. However, there are what are called “de facto couples”, which are not registered in the civil status office but are simply transcribed in what are called “De facto couples registers”, a special register of the municipality of residence that takes into account couples who are united but not married.

In England, the law does not provide any mechanism to register a French PACS in the UK or to convert a PACS registered in France into a valid civil partnership under British law. The legal institution most similar to the PACS could be considered the civil partnership, but this union creates legally more stable and significant bonds than the PACS and, therefore, a real parallel cannot be established.

In Portugal, this type of union applies to any couple, regardless of the sex of the two people. This type of union is intended for people who are free of marital ties, although a judicial separation order of persons and property is sufficient to enter into a de facto union. Portuguese civil law recognizes certain effects of de facto unions but does not recognize any form of registered de facto union (PACS). Therefore, in Portugal, there is no formalized civil union distinct from marriage. However, the property effects of French PACS can be recognized in Portugal.

Advantages of the PACS in France

One of the main advantages of the PACS in France is the simplicity of the registration process compared to marriage. Couples who choose to enter into a PACS can benefit from certain tax rights, such as joint taxation after three years of continuous cohabitation. Additionally, PACS partners are entitled to work permits in case of the illness or death of the partner, similar to spousal rights.

Another significant advantage is the flexibility in asset management. Under the separation of property regime, each partner retains ownership of their individual assets, which can simplify the distribution of property in case of dissolution of the PACS. However, couples can opt for a different regime through a notarial agreement that adjusts the property conditions according to their preferences.

Limitations and Considerations

Although the PACS offers numerous benefits, it also has certain limitations. For example, unlike marriage, it does not automatically confer inheritance rights. Partners must make specific testamentary arrangements to ensure that their partner receives part of their assets in case of death. Additionally, the PACS does not automatically provide joint adoption rights, which can be an important factor for some couples.

It is crucial for couples to understand the legal implications and differences between the PACS and marriage before making a decision. Consulting with a specialized lawyer can help clarify doubts and ensure that the PACS is the right choice according to the couple’s needs and circumstances.

Procedure for Dissolving the PACS

The dissolution of the PACS can be initiated by mutual agreement or by unilateral decision of one of the partners. In the case of mutual agreement, both partners must submit a joint declaration to the relevant court or to the notary who registered the PACS. If the dissolution is unilateral, the partner wishing to dissolve the PACS must formally notify the other partner and file the dissolution request in court.

In any case, the dissolution of the PACS involves resolving economic and property aspects, similar to a divorce. The assistance of a family lawyer can be invaluable in handling this process fairly and efficiently.

International Implications

For international couples, the PACS presents unique challenges and opportunities. Foreign partners residing in France must be prepared to provide additional documentation and may need legal assistance to navigate the specific requirements. Additionally, the legal implications of the PACS can vary significantly depending on the partners’ country of origin and its recognition of the PACS.


The PACS is a flexible and accessible option for couples who wish to formalize their relationship without getting married. It offers numerous benefits, from tax rights to asset management, and can be a suitable solution for many couples. However, it is essential to understand its limitations and seek legal advice to ensure that the PACS is the best option based on individual circumstances. If you are interested in entering into a PACS with a French citizen, our law firm in Lyon is at your disposal to assist you. For any questions or contact, please write to

Angela Falqui – Associate

Dott.ssa Maria Grazia Panzali 

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