Whether they have drawn up an agreement or not, spouses are subject to a matrimonial regime which governs the organisation of their finances.
In the absence of an agreement, the spouses automatically come under the joint ownership legal regime. But this is not always suited to the interested parties. They can then determine the legal regime via specific clauses or opt for another one. To do so, it is necessary to sign a prenuptial agreement with a notary. This option is available to couples who have been together for at least two years.
Each spouse remains the sole owner of the assets they acquired before the marriage and of those that they inherited or received as a donation during their marriage. These assets are deemed to be their own as opposed to the common assets which are acquired during the marriage, whether together or separately.
On the death of a spouse, the survivor recovers half of the community of property. Debts are common to the spouses who are jointly liable for them.
Separation of assets
Each spouse owns the assets they acquired before or during the marriage and is solely liable for their own debts except for those contracted in the interest of the household or resulting from fiscal solidarity. In the event of separation, each remains the sole owner of their assets.
Both spouses own all the assets they acquired before or during the marriage. Upon a divorce, everything is divided down the middle. Spouses married under the universal community regime have the option of including a clause of full attribution in their prenuptial agreement so that the entire estate of the deceased can be transferred to the surviving spouse.
Joint ownership of assets acquired after marriage
During the marriage, the spouses manage their respective assets, as if they were under the separation of assets regime. It is at the moment of dissolution, in the event of death or separation, that their possessions will be compared. The capital of each of them will be evaluated in relation to that which they had at the beginning. The difference is called the “acquests”. The couple’s “acquests” are accumulated and then divided in two.
Whatever their regime, the spouses contribute to the costs of married life and cannot occupy their accommodation without the agreement of the other.
Articles 1387 et seq. of the French Civil Code