Your marital status and the joint ownership of property

Certain rules apply automatically when two people are married. The marital status sets the rules for managing assets and debts accumulated before and during the marriage.

How will they be divided up if you divorce or if a spouse dies ?

These are the characteristics and legal implications related to the different matrimonial regimes.

The regime of community reduced to aquisitions (Régime de la communauté réduite aux acquêts)

It automatically applies to all couples who were married without a marriage contract (prenuptial, wedding contract or equivalent).The regime is applicable by default and does not require the drafting of a notarized marriage contract.

All property acquired or owned by the spouses before their union is considered as their own assets and remain the exclusive property of each spouse who can dispose of them as they see fit (sell or rent them) without the agreement of the other. The origin (donation or inheritance) or the nature (movable or immovable) of these assets are of little importance. Only the anteriority of their acquisition before the marriage counts.

In addition to property acquired before marriage, additional assets (and gains produced) received by each spouse by gift or inheritance during the marriage are also considered as own their assets. Each spouse is the owner of their own property and also responsible for the charges that encumber them.

Property acquired during the marriage is automatically considered as community property. Each spouse can freely dispose of joint property. However, the sale or donation of common property requires the agreement of both spouses.

In case of the dissolution of the regime (divorce per example), common property should be divided equally between the spouses but the debts contracted during the marriage are pooled and each spouse is liable even for those contracted by the other spouse.

The regime of the separation of property (Régime de la séparation des biens)

It is a matrimonial regime in which each spouse retains full ownership of his or her property acquired before and during the union.

Each spouse is responsible for and owns the movable or immovable property that he or she acquired before and during the marriage. The choice of this regime requires a notarized marriage contract.

Everyone is free to dispose of their assets as they wish. Each spouse retains full administration and free disposal of their movable and immovable property. The income produced from the property remains the exclusive property of each spouse.

However, the main residence of the family enjoys special protection even if it belongs to one of the spouses who cannot dispose of it freely without the agreement of the other. Both spouses are required to pay for the maintenance of the household and/or the education of the children jointly even if they did not incur the expense themselves. The assets of each are then engaged and can be seized.

Better suited for spouses with different financial situations who do not wish to bring into a community the property acquired through the fruit of their respective labor, it will protect the assets from creditors who will not be able to seize the property of the other spouse to obtain payment of his or her professional debts.

Each spouse is responsible and owner of his or her property and assumes the tax burden relating to his or her property. The gift between spouses is possible but the regime of the separation of property is difficult to envisage when one of the spouses depends entirely on the other since in the event of divorce or death of one of the spouses, each retains the ownership of his property.

The regime of participation in acquisitions (Régime de la participation aux acquêts)

The system of participation in acquisitions is a hybrid matrimonial regime. It combines both characteristics of the regime of separation of property and that of community reduced to acquests.

The choice of this regime is made by drafting a notarized marriage contract.

The regime of participation in acquisitions makes it possible to preserve the independence of the patrimony of the spouses during the marriage and to establish its equal division at its dissolution.

Throughout the duration of the marriage, the applicable rules are those borrowed from the regime of separation of property. Each spouse retains full ownership of their property whether acquired before or during marriage, regardless of their origin (donation or inheritance) or their nature (furniture or real estate). Each spouse also retains full administration and free disposal of their movable and immovable property. Therefore, each of them can alienate (to sell) or rent his property.

Upon dissolution (death, divorce, regime change), the situation of the couple is governed by the rules of the community reduced to acquests where each spouse will be entitled to half of the property acquired by the couple separately. If there is enrichment, it is divided equally between the spouses.

The regime of the universal community (Régime de la communauté universelle)

It is a conventional matrimonial regime in which all the movable or immovable property, present or future, is placed in the community regardless of their nature or origin. All present and future assets are pooled together.

The choice of the universal community status must be recorded in a notarized marriage contract. The wish to retain personal ownership of specify goods can be included in the contract.

Each spouse has the power to administer and dispose of joint property alone without having to request the prior authorization of their spouse.

Since the property of the couple is common, the gains produced and related debts are also common.

This regime is discouraged for couples where one of the spouses is an entrepreneur (In the event of financial difficulty, the couple’s creditors can seize all the assets of their heritage).

In the event of dissolution (change of status or death of one of the spouses), all present and future assets will be divided in half. The surviving spouse is considered to be the owner of half of the common assets and heir for the succession on the other half only.

With your project, our dedicated team of brokers can review your matrimonial regime and financial profile.

Because of the date of your marriage, the country where you live or were married, the existence or not of a marriage contract, a French Notaire can help you to understand the specifics details related to your current matrimonial regime and choose the marital regime adapted to your situation.

If you decide to draft a notarized marriage contract, please note that it does not allow you to optimize your taxation (income tax) during the marriage but each contract has different consequences in the event of the death of a spouse or divorce.

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