Cohabitation, PACS – Separation of non-married couples – French Law


Article 515-8 of the Civil Code defines cohabitation concubinage as “a de facto union, characterized by a life together offering a character of stability and continuity, between two persons of different sexes or of the same sex, who live as a couple.”

If you cohabitate but are not in a civil solidarity pact (PACS), and you wish to separate by mutual agreement, a judge does not need to intervene. However, if you are in dispute with your partner, the Juge aux affaires familiales (family court judge) will be able to settle your differences.

With regard to your assets, if your family home was bought solely by one of you, the non-buying partner has no legal right to it and will be unable to oppose the sale or the letting of the property by its owner. If you bought the property together, the consent of both partners is required in order to be able to sell or let the property. The sum invested by each partner and given in the notarised instrument acte notarié of the property sale will serve as the starting point in the event of a cohabitation breakdown.

Regarding your children, you may ask the judge to intervene with regard to parental authority, the child’s residence, the right of the non-custodial parent to visits and overnight stays and child support. Parental authority is held by each parent whose filiation is legally established.

Pacte civil de solidarité – PACS

The pacte civil de solidarité (civil solidarity pact – PACS) is a civil union contract entered into by two persons over the age of 18, of different sexes or the same sex, in order to structure their life together. This contract is governed by Articles 515-1 and subsequent texts of the Civil Code.

Article 515-5 of the Civil Code sets out a statutory regime similar to that of séparation de biens (separation of assets), which is applicable except where otherwise provided for in the PACS agreement. Therefore, from the moment that the PACS is registered and for its whole duration, each partner retains the right to manage, use and access their personal assets as they see fit.

If you are in a PACS agreement, you can end this contract by way of a joint statement or a unilateral decision.

In the case of the former, you must send your joint written statement via registered delivery with proof of receipt to your local greffe du tribunal d’instance (magistrates’ court office) or to the notary notaire who registered your PACS.

In the case of the latter, you must notify your partner of your decision to end the PACS by way of a court official. The court official will also forward a copy of this notification to your local tribunal d’instance (court of first instance) or to the notary who received the original legal documentation. The court clerk or the notary will record the dissolution, then the officier de l’état civil (civil registrar) will carry out the disclosure formalities by putting a note in the margin of each partner’s Birth Certificate noting the dissolution of the PACS.

If you live abroad, the statement or notification outlined above will need to be addressed to the French Embassy or Consulate.

If you are unable to reach an agreement on the consequences of your separation, you may refer the matter to the Juge aux affaires familiales (family court judge), who will rule on the consequences of the breakdown in terms of the personal assets involved and on any compensation for any resulting damages.