France, like many European countries, applies a doctrine of “property regimes” to marital property. If married in France, the couple will elect one of these regimes, which affects how they hold their property during the course of their marriage. The type of regime will be determinative of how property is divided upon divorce, as well as impacting upon issues of bankruptcy and inheritance.
The English court has a wide discretion to investigate assets and divide them between the couples. The French courts have no such discretion.
Capital will be divided along the rules of the marital property regime adopted by the parties at the time of their marriage. This is most likely to be separation de biens, in which all property is owned by the person who acquired or earned it, or communauté universelle in which property earned during the marriage is owned equally. There are some variations on these which affect pre-marital assets, but it is most likely that such property would be excluded.
In England, such an agreement will carry some weight when dividing the capital, but may be disregarded or deviated from by the court.
The French courts also very rarely award ongoing spousal maintenance. Though they have the power to order a “compensatory payment” of capital to balance the difference between the parties’ earning power, this is a one off payment and will not be designed to keep the financially weaker party at the same standard of living as that enjoyed during the marriage.
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