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What you need to know about PACS v marriage in France

The institution of PACS (a civil partnership) is more than 20 years old and 200,000 couples in France have registered for one. But what is a PACS and how is it different from getting married?

Wedding and PACS venue, France
What are the differences between the French civil partnership and marriage? Photo: AFP

Whether you choose to enter a PACS (pacte civil de solidarité or ‘civil union’) or go the whole hog and get married in France, it’s best to first find out what each scenario would mean for you and your partner.

The PACS was introduced to France back in 1999 as a way of giving same-sex couples similar rights and benefits to those given to married couples. 

Of course, since 2013 same-sex couple have been able to marry in France but that hasn’t stopped many couples – same-sex and heterosexual – opting for the civil union instead.

It’s become such an accepted part of the landscape that its acronym has become a word – pacsé, meaning people who have entered a civil union.

But each system has advantages and disadvantages. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

READ ALSO:
Photo: AFP
 
The basics
  • You can get out of a PACS union more easily than a marriage
Divorcing in France can be a lengthy, complicated and expensive process involving lawyers but if you are pacsé all you need to do is send an official letter off to your local court to inform them of your decision. 
 
  • If you are PACS you don’t have the same inheritance or adoption rights (more on that below). 

  • You can declare joint taxes, receive the tax benefits of being in a couple, transfer rental contracts between partners, and employers must take PACS into account for time off work for births, deaths, and holidays.

  • The usual rules for being married, such as not already being married to someone else, not being related, and being of sound age and mind, also apply to the PACS.

  • Most residency rights, such as being able to apply for a spouse visa, apply to both married and pacsé couples

  • After becoming either pacsé or married you have to have a single address for official purposes.

Photo: AFP
 
 

Adoption rights

In France, only married couples can jointly adopt a child. 

That means that if you are pacsé and would like to adopt, you only have access to individual adoption which means only one of you would officially be the child’s parent. 

In fact, adoption isn’t all that easy for couples who are married, with the rules stipulating that a couple must have been married for more than two years or over the age of 28 before they apply. 

Health Insurance

In terms of social protection, and particularly health insurance, pacsé couples are considered to be the same as married couples.

Pensions

On the other hand, your partner would not be entitled to your pension in the event of your death if you are pacsé rather than married even if you have children together. 

Meanwhile a spouse or divorced former spouse is entitled, on a means-tested basis, to a portion of the deceased’s pension.

Taxes 

When it comes to both income tax and wealth tax pacsé couples are treated the same way as married couples. 

READ ALSO Does it make financial sense to get married or pacsé in France?

Inheritance

One of the biggest differences between a PACS union and a marriage in France is that if you are married, even in the absence of a will, the surviving spouse is automatically entitled to a share of the deceased’s inheritance.

On top of that, the surviving spouse has the automatic right to continue living in the family home. 

However for the surviving person in a pacsé union there is no automatic right to any of the above. Instead you would have to have written a will stipulating those conditions if that is what you would like to happen. 

That means that if you are pacsé then the surviving partner is not as protected as they would be if you were married however you can easily get around this by writing a will. 

READ ALSO How inheritance laws and taxes work in France 

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Five signs you’ve settled into life in Switzerland

Getting adjusted to Swiss ways is not always easy for foreign nationals, but with a lot of perseverance it can be done. This is how you know you’ve assimilated.

Five signs you've settled into life in Switzerland
No lint: Following laundry room rules is a sign of integration in Switzerland. Photo by Sara Chai from Pexels

Much has been said about Switzerland’s quirkiness, but when you think about it, this country’s idiosyncrasies are not more or less weird than any other nation’s — except for the fact that they are expressed in at least three languages which, admittedly, can complicate matters a bit.

However, once you master the intricacies and nuances of Swiss life, you will feel like you belong here.

This is when you know you’ve “made it”.

You speak one of the national languages, even if badly

It irritates the Swiss to no end when a foreigner, and particularly an English-speaking foreigner, doesn’t make an effort to learn the language of a region in which he or she lives, insisting instead that everyone communicates to them in their language.

So speaking the local language will go a long way to being accepted and making you feel settled in your new home.

You get a Swiss watch and live by it

Punctuality is a virtue here, while tardiness is a definite no-no.

If you want to ingratiate yourself to the Swiss, be on time. Being even a minute late  may cause you to miss your bus, but also fail in the cultural integration.

‘The pleasure of punctuality’: Why are the Swiss so obsessed with being on time?

Using an excuse like “my train was late” may be valid in other countries, but not in Switzerland.

The only exception to this rule is if a herd of cows or goats blocks your path, causing you to be late.

A close-up of a Rolex watch in Switzerland.

Owning a Rolex is a sure sign you’re rich enough to live in Switzerland. Photo by Adam Bignell on Unsplash

You sort and recycle your trash

The Swiss are meticulous when it comes to waste disposal and, not surprisingly, they have strict regulations on how to throw away trash in an environmentally correct manner.

Throwing away all your waste in a trash bag without separating it first — for instance, mixing PET bottles with tin cans or paper — is an offence in Switzerland which can result in heavy fines, the amount of which is determined by each individual commune.

In fact, the more assiduous residents separate every possible waste item — not just paper, cardboard, batteries and bottles (sorted by colour), but also coffee capsules, yogurt containers, scrap iron and steel, organic waste, carpets, and electronics.

In fact, with their well-organised communal dumpsters or recycling bins in neighbourhoods, the Swiss have taken the mundane act of throwing out one’s garbage to a whole new level of efficiency.

So one of the best ways to fit in is to be as trash-oriented as the Swiss.

READ MORE: Eight ways you might be annoying your neighbours (and not realising it) in Switzerland

You trim your hedges with a ruler

How your garden looks says a lot about you.

If it’s unkempt and overgrown with weeds, you are clearly a foreigner (though likely not German or Austrian).

But if your grass is cut neatly and your hedges trimmed with military-like precision (except on Sundays), and some of your bushes and shrubs are shaped like poodles,  you will definitely fit in.

You follow the laundry room rules

If you live in an apartment building, chances are there is a communal laundry room in the basement that is shared by all the residents.

As everything else in Switzerland, these facilities are regulated by a …laundry list of “dos” and “don’ts” that you’d well to commit to memory and adhere to meticulously.

These rules relate to everything from adhering to the assigned time slot to removing lint from the dryer.

Following each rule to the letter, and not trying to wash your laundry in someone else’s time slot, is a sign of successful integration.

Voilà, the five signs you are “at home” in Switzerland.

READ MORE: French-speaking Switzerland: Seven life hacks that will make you feel like a local

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