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Law firm in Paris : In the absence of a marriage contract, how can the spouses' matrimonial regime be determined?

In the absence of a marriage contract, how can the spouses' matrimonial regime be determined?

Even without a marriage contract, the spouses are necessarily subject to a matrimonial regime and their marriage entails financial consequences towards each other and third parties. In the absence of a marriage contract, the law implicitly chosen by the spouses in order to define their matrimonial regime must be determined. The rules in order to determine this "implicit choice" are different according to whether the spouses were married before or after 1 September 1992.

*For spouses married after 1 September 1992

The provisions of the Hague Convention of 14 March 1978, which came into force on 1 September 1992 in France and several other countries, apply. The nature of this convention is "universal", i.e. it also applies to spouses who are nationals of third-party countries that did not sign the Convention, in order to determine their matrimonial regime in France.

The principle is set out in article 4, paragraph 1, which provides that in the absence of a marriage contract prior to their union, the spouses are subject to the law of their first habitual country of residence once married.

However several exceptions to this principle are provided so as to designate the spouses' common national law instead of the law of their first habitual country of residence. More specifically, these exceptions apply in the absence of a common habitual residence after marriage and with spouses of the same nationality.

*For spouses married before 1 September 1992

For spouses married before 1 September 1992, the rules of French international law and case law apply; the latter adopt the principle of freedom of choice and consider that this choice translates by the selection of the spouses' first matrimonial place of residence.

However, this matrimonial place of residence must have a certain stability. In general, a period of two years is needed in order to determine the matrimonial place of residence. However, case law specifies that the presumption in favour of the first matrimonial place of residence may be invalidated by other relevant evidence, depending in particular on the behaviour of the spouses once married.