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To ensure the permanence of the matrimonial property regime, it is advisable for expatriate spouses to draw up a contract prior to the marriage, in order to precisely determine the applicable law and matrimonial property regime.

Is it possible to draw up a marriage contract abroad?

Due to the diversity of foreign domestic legislation and rules of private international law, the question of matrimonial property regime is a complex one that arises throughout the marriage. During the marriage, the spouses may change nationality or domicile, or acquire property in different countries. 

The marriage contract, an authenticated document, can be drawn up by a local notary or before a notary in France.

Which laws can be chosen?

The EU Regulation of June 24, 2016 came into force on January 29, 2019. With regard to the choice of law applicable to their matrimonial property regime, according to Article 22 of the Regulation, the spouses may designate :

  • the national law of one of the future spouses at the time of designation.
  • the law of the State of habitual residence of one of the future spouses at the time of designation,

Is a wedding celebrated abroad valid in France?

Some foreign codes may include several legal systems, or provide that at the time of marriage, the spouses may express their wish in favor of a particular system. This option for a matrimonial property regime, made by the spouses before a foreign registrar at the time of the marriage ceremony, represents a valid choice of law and regime. As long as this option is made in accordance with the provisions of the domestic legislation applicable to the place of celebration of the marriage.

This option must be assessed for spouses married between September 1, 1992 and January 29, 2019, in view of the limited choice of law provided for in Article 3 of the Hague Convention.

For spouses married since January 29, 2019 according to thearticle 22 paragraph 1 of the EU regulation of June 24, 2016. But if it is valid, the regime chosen by the spouses will have to be applied in the same way as a marriage contract if the formal requirements are met.

However, to make use of this option, it is necessary to find out whether the spouses can abide by the law of the country where the marriage is celebrated. Let's take the example of a Portuguese couple. The bride is Portuguese, the groom French. The choice of Portuguese law and the Portuguese regime of separation of property is perfectly valid, and the spouses should be considered to be under the Portuguese regime of separation of property.

The same would apply to a French couple living in Porto. In both cases, either the national law of one of the spouses, or the law of the domicile, would allow the couple to be connected to Portuguese law.

If the wedding takes place abroad, are there any special formalities?

If you're getting married in PortugalWhen you register your marriage with the French Consulate in Lisbon, you will need to indicate that you have drawn up a marriage contract. This will be mentioned in the margin of the marriage certificate.

The existence of the marriage contract will also be mentioned on the family record book issued to the parties concerned.

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