Just what on earth is a PACS, why would you want one, how do you get it, and how might you get out of it? I myself went through the rigmarole just after I moved to Paris (that’s to say, obtaining it and not getting out of it), and had no idea what I was really signing into, and still remain a bit clueless when people ask me, “so what’s a PACS? Are you married or what?!”
A PACS is a civil partnership. Homosexual couples often go down this route because they can’t get married in France, but plenty of hetrosexual couples like Mme. Grenouille and I who aren’t into the whole tradition/superstition/institution of marriage can take this option instead. A PACS is a contract; there is no real romance in it, and it is a little like a marriage from a legal viewpoint, but the individuals are still considered ‘single’ with regards to family status. It offers advantages such as declaration of joint income tax just the same as married couples, and that was perhaps the main reason for taking it… And by Jove it is hard to obtain!
Unfortunately I can’t elucidate on all the details of how to obtain a PACS because much of it was in the capable hands of Mme. Grenouille. Being of two nationalities complicates things a little. You could pay a notaire to sort things out for you, but you’d probably be looking at 1000 euros when you can do it yourself for a tiny fraction of the cost.
Naive me thought my original birth certificate would be enough, but alas no. I had to obtain a long version of it from my birth town of Norwich, which was about £7 or £8, but that alone is not enough. You must pay an official French translator to translate the certificate into French (you cannot do this by yourself), and have it stamped with a seal of approval by them. That was between 30-40 euros.
In the mean time there are free templates online for drawing up a contract, which states which possessions and finances belong to whom should the two parties go their separate ways. As far as I know, to annul the PACS you can do it merely through writing, sent off in the post, so I’ve no idea how solid these contracts are supposed to be.
I had to write to the British Embassy in Paris to obtain a certificat de coutume which is a single sheet of paper costing about 75 euros which simply stated that I didn’t have a PACS and wasn’t married to anyone else. Unfortunately they returned my payment saying they could not accept a cheque, and would only take banker’s cheque or a postal order, so it did end up costing a little more (I should have read more closely as their website does state no cheques, though I can’t think why not).
As the clock kept ticking away, we became more and more aware that my translated birth certificate was only valid for 6 months, after which time I would have to pay for another translation (French bureaucracy is astounding, non?) We desperately tried to push the date through, and finally got one for last November. Just a few days before the event I discovered my cerificat de coutume did not cover me for France! I had to urgently get another declaration to prove I didn’t have an existing PACS in France (I had assumed the one from the British consulate would have covered me). I raced across to the other side of Paris, passed through tight security at the building entrance, and met with a miserable lady who could print and sign this much needed piece of paper (fortunately they are free here). Finally, it was all sorted, and following our earlier visit to the Tribunal to arrange everything and hand over our bits and pieces (it also includes things like a copy of your passport and proof that you live at the same residence), we returned to the local Town Hall. There we met with a friendly lady who went though everything, signed a few documents and it was job done! Like I say, not romantic in the slightest, although I did hide some rice in my pocket and threw it at Mme Grenouille when we stepped outside which I found highly amusing and must have looked ridiculous to anyone watching.
Here is the link for the British consulate: How to hold a civil partnership in France