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Living together without being married

A couple can now choose to get married, to register as civil partners or to cohabitate. Each situation has tangible consequences on the rights and duties towards each other and the children and also on the rights and duties in case of death.


The law considers cohabitants who live together without being married as two « friends » with no real relation between each other.

  • Each cohabitant remains sole owner of his assets. There is no legal obligation to participate in current expenses.
  • The two cohabitants pay their income tax separately (Impôt sur le Revenu – IR).
  • They are liable for their own debts, except if one decides to stand security for the other.
  • If one of them owns the family house, he or she can sell it without the other’s consent. In the case of a lease, the tenant who has signed the lease contract is entitled to freely dispose of the house. In return, he or she is solely responsible for the payment of the rent.
  • However, if the tenant dies or leaves the house, his or her cohabitant may keep the house if they were living in it together for over a year.
  • Some social welfare bodies (such as Social Security and Family Allowances Office) acknowledge this type of union. However, pension reversion is not systematic.
  • Cohabitants are subject to wealth tax (Impôt de solidarité sur la Fortune – ISF).

Since the Civil Partnership Law of the 15th of November 1999, cohabitation is defined as a de-facto union between two people of opposite sex or of the same sex, who live together are living together as a couple (article 515-8 of the Civil Code).

The civil partnership contract

The civil partnership contract is a cohabitation contract, but it is not a prenuptial agreement.

It is a commitment of two people. It entails rights and duties than are more important than those existing between cohabitants, but are still different from those existing between a married couple.

  • What formalities are involved?

The partners must sign a contract either by private agreement or by notarial deed.

Because this contract intends to build a legal framework to the partners’ common life and to their patrimonial relations, it is safer to obtain the advice needed in order to establish a contract adapted to the parties’ situation and which corresponds to their wishes.

If the civil partnership contract is established by private agreement, the Clerk of the magistrates’ court where the couple resides registers the joint statement of the partners.

If the contract of civil partnership is made by deed, there is no registration at the Clerk’s Office. The notary mentions the contract on a specific register, called the register of contracts of civil partnership.

It will then be noted in the margin of the partner’s birth certificate.

The contract comes into effect for the partners once their contract has been registered, either by the Clerk of the magistrates’ court or by the notary. The civil partnership contract registered by the notary therefore takes effect immediately, unlike the civil partnership established by private agreement, and for third parties, it takes effect after its publication in the margin of the birth certificate.

  • The partners’ rights and duties

Persons united by civil partnership are required to provide material assistance and a mutual moral assistance.

The aid is proportionate to their respective faculties, unless the contract provides another proportion.

In addition, concluding a civil partnership contract will bear significant patrimonial, fiscal and social consequences, such as:

  • Solidarity between partners for certain household expenses related to maintenance of household,
  • joint taxation of the partners,
  • acknowledgement of a partner’s rights by social organizations (Social Security and Family Allowance) which acknowledges this civil union, but reversion pension is not systematic.

For assets acquired after the effective date of the civil partnership, partners have the choice between:

  • either the separate estate system, in which case each property owner maintains ownership of what he or she has personally bought.
  • or the joint possession system, in which case the other partner becomes owner of half the property acquired by one partner.

Seeing that this choice is important for their future, partners should seek their notary’s advice beforehand.

  • Do civil partners inherit from each other?

No. The contract of civil partnership gives no particular rights to partners on the legacy of the deceased.

The surviving partner is legally considered a stranger to the family.

He has no rights on the estate, except for the right to stay for free in the family home with its furniture during the year following the death. lf there is a lease, the rent will be paid by the estate for a year.

Partners inherit from each other only if there is a will in their favour, provided that the heritage reserve of the children is not reached.

As a result, if partners wish to confer rights to each other in their estates, they will have to make a  will. The notary will provide advice to meet their expectations.

  • Taxation

Civil partners benefit of an allowance of € 80,724 on donation taxes and of full exemption in case of inheritance in the same way as married couples do.

  • The breach of civil partnership

A civil partnership may cease by mutual agreement or can be terminated by one of the partners.

In either case, the breach of contract must be reported to the Registrar at the Magistrates’ Court or to the notary who wrote up the contract.

Depending on the case: the breach will take effect at that date between the concerned partners and, regarding of third parties, after its inscription in the margins of the birth certificates.

The civil partnership also comes to an immediate end in case of death or of marriage of the partners or of one of them, in which case, the breach effects are immediate.

The law provides that in the absence of agreement between the partners over their rights and obligations, the judge will rule on the financial consequences.

The judge may also rule on compensation for damages claims.

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