Getting a PACS in France – the non-romance of civil partnership

This post was written by admin on February 6, 2009
Posted Under: Daily Paris


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

Reader Comments

oh my ! I PACSed last year too, but had the good idea to become french before doing it. We wanted to conclude our PACS in 2007 but then I was only german. My “parcours du combattant” was therefore dedicated to obtaining the french nationality and not the PACS. Which, indeed, went then effortless. 🙂
(hum, I think my english isn’t the best… hope you understood my story 🙂 )

Written By SurfAnna on February 7th, 2009 @ 6:23 pm

Your English is excellent! Meilleur que mon français!! And my German is non-existent. 🙁
Congratulations on succesfully getting your PACS! Unfortunately, yes I do believe you need something like a marriage for the French citizenship, or to live here long enough to obtain it.
Nevermind – the PACS started in 1999, so we are still members of an elite minority to have this status! 🙂

Written By admin on February 7th, 2009 @ 6:32 pm

i would like to talk with someone that made a PACS
Im mexican and my boyfriend french and we want to make
the pacs in paris but we are living in london know
can you send me your e mail
o contact me please

Written By melissa paredes on April 16th, 2009 @ 1:01 am

Hi everyone,

just paid a visit to my local “tribunal d’instance”, still fuming (I know it does no good in France, it makes their day to see you drop the corners of your mouth into a slightly disgruntled irk), and as you wisely say, it’s not straightforward. I should add that my intended is Argentine. I can hear your sniggers turning into guffaws now. Doesn’t look right written, “guffaws”, but I checked it in the old dico. Funnily enough, she is better prepared than me – she had the sense to get all her docs checked over in Buenos Aires, but living mext door to the French Consulate, she was able to “casser les pieds” until she got what she wanted. I’m a polite Brit. I go away when people tell me to. Was. You have to learn how to out-sarcasm, out-enrage the other party, and be patient. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no wet-back, back wet from just swimming the channel. I’ve been here 17 years, but I’ve never got married or “pacsed” here. (They don’t believe me on that one either.) I’ll keep you posted, I’m off for me jam sandwich and jelly pudding.

Written By Parvis on April 28th, 2009 @ 11:31 am

Hi Parvis,
I think you need a Parisian attitude and mentality to get through the PACS system! Hope things made more sense after a gelatinous meal. 🙂

I should probably have added a bit more detail to my original post, so here’s a few extras steps I went through for anyone reading:

* I applied for a long copy of my birth certificate from my city of birth. You must complete the PACS process within 6 months otherwise you have to reorder the birth certificate again. Once you have it, you must have a registered authority translate it into French for you and stamped with a seal of approval – around 30 euros.

* I needed a certificate de non-pacs (to prove I wasn’t already PACsed in France). This is free. I went to the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris to collect mine in person, but I’m sure they can send it through the post.

* I needed the “certificat de coutume” which I’m afraid isn’t free and must be paid with using ‘postal order’ or ‘bank mandate’.

* My partner and myself had to complete an Attestation Honneur to prove we’re not related in anyway.

* We needed an Address Commune, which shows we live at the same address (I believe an EDF bill or a rent bill can prove this).

* There’s another document (I forget the name now) to show I have the right to vote in the UK.

* I had to write a contract (there’s plenty of free templates on the Internet) to detail what assets I and my partner had from property to processions and money.

* When you go to the town hall you will also need a passport/id to show them.

Be sure to check out these two websites for more details:

Written By admin on May 8th, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

Hi there,

I am a Malaysian and my boyfriend is French. He is now in Paris and I am in Singapore. We both would like to get PACS and would like to know what the processes involved and how we both can do them.
Do advice please. Contact me thru my email.

Thank you.

Written By Jacynta on June 7th, 2009 @ 10:12 am

Can a married Foreigner go into PACS with a French Citizen

Written By raph on August 1st, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

Hi Raph – definitely not! As noted in the entry the certificat de coutume which you obtain from your own country is to prove you are not already married or PACsed. You would need a divorce before you got PACsed with a French citizen, and please note are PACs will not give you French citizenship either.

Written By admin on August 2nd, 2009 @ 9:56 am

i’m pakistani national and living in france illegally since 3 year.While i enter in france legally with schegen visa but it has been expired since long time in france i already had been married with a girl by religious but it is not official in france and it’s nothing i went to Mairi in france with my future wife for to be officially marry while the Mairi demand to see the orignal passport .when i been there at Mairi with my future wife by law,the Mairi called police and the police arrested me,after my future wife and her parents had got an advocate for me then the 1st judge decided to leave me but there was Cour d’pell.In the 3rd time the Cour d’pell the judge also decided to leave me and he given me 7 days to be live in france and said if i want to do marriage here then i must find how it is possible.please help me and tell me how can i do while in pakistan i have non of my family.i have all my family here (my future wife parents and her family) please help me about it,i will be thankful to you.

my Email Address is :

Written By Muhammad Ishaq on February 19th, 2010 @ 11:45 am

I am an American pacsed with a French man and am wondering do I have to claim him on my American taxes, do I have to file as married in the US? Pacs is not recognized by the American government but my accountant says I have to file as married. Help!

Written By samantha on March 31st, 2010 @ 2:33 am

I am very confused!! According to the form on the British consulate website for Application form for certificate of law pacs, does this mean they can actually do the PACS for you there? And can this be used in the French law saying you are have a solidarity pact? If not what is the 82€ actually for?
Thanks for any help!

Written By Katie on August 13th, 2010 @ 6:21 pm

Hi Katie, the British consulate just provide you with the certificat de coutume, which is a very expensive document for what it is and a complete rip-off, however you won’t manage to get PACsed without it. The certificat de coutume simple states that you’re not married or in a civil union with somebody in the UK; naturally if you were, you cannot get PACsed in France. Unfortunately you still you have to go through the whole process as outlined in the comments above – there’s no shortcuts, and it’s not a particularly simple process.

Written By admin on August 18th, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

Hello anyone!I am an american living in paris considering pacsing with my sweetheart.I would gladly pay someone to help get the process started.I am a bumbling fool when it comes to this sort of beaurocratic bordel.For instance I have questions like since I am american do I have to have a long version birthcertificate or is that just a UK thing?Also how closely do they check your passport?do they just look at you picture or do they look at the date you entered the country?any help would be greatly appreciated!

Written By sarah on August 23rd, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

Now I’m worried!!! I’m a brit whose been living and working in Toulouse for 2 years. My british girlfriend is about to come and join me and we were thinking about getting PACsed but her French is non existant and mine is still pretty basic. Not sure I fancy our chances of getting through this complicated process without one of us speaking pretty good French. How has anyone else managed?

Written By KAT on September 4th, 2011 @ 1:54 pm

Hello! I am a young Canadian girl looking to get into a PACS because my french lover is here in France and without the PACS I would not be legally permitted to work in France! (Since I’m not a part of the EU this complicates working rights!) Anyway, I have a specific question that needs a bit of an introduction before hand…

I am a student here in France and I recently found out that my studies will no longer be valid in Canada, thi frightened me because around the same time I heard that I could not work in France.. So basically the studies I am currently doing are useless! This has sent me into an extreme panic. I am now considering leaving my boyfriend (who is french) and going back to Canada only because of this silly law… We were discussing PACS so we could stay together, my studies would be valid in France, and I would have the right to work here.
Although this does not change the fact that my course would not be valid in Canada. So this is a lifelong decision to stay in France.. And as everyone knows, everything can change in the blink of an eye!!! So my question is, if we obtained the PACS, but ended up one day unfortunately breaking up, would I, being a former PACS to a french man, be able to legally continue to work and live in France?

This question has been impossible to answer online, so that would be absolutely excellent if one of you PACSers would be able to fill me in on rights after ending of PACS.

THANK YOU SO MUCH!! I really hope to hear back from someone 🙂

Written By SADE on November 8th, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

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