I am regularly asked to advise French and international couples on the protective agreements available to them before they marry. They are often surprised to learn that it isn’t possible to draft a global prenuptial agreement which would be enforceable throughout the world, wherever the couple move to in the future.

If you are a French individual living in England (or considering a move here), it is essential to understand the differences between a French marriage contract (Contrat de mariage) and an English prenuptial agreement before deciding what kind of agreement you need. Because the ability to start a divorce process is based on either residence or domicile/nationality, couples need to consider where they are likely to live during the marriage when considering their options.

Drafting agreements which will be effective across borders can be tricky, because the English (common law) legal system talks a very different legal language to the French civil system for example. I therefore work closely with French lawyers to draft agreements with a view to them being upheld and relevant in either England or France.

It can be a shock for French couples who have moved to England to learn that their French marriage contract and chosen matrimonial regime will not automatically be enforceable if they were to divorce in England. An English Judge may have absolutely no regard for the foreign agreement and it may have no bearing on the divorce outcome, including the financial settlement. French couples moving to England should consider entering into a post nuptial agreement if they are concerned about future possible divorce proceedings in this country.

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Which agreement do we need?

If you are a French national living in England and you are getting married, it is likely that you will need an English prenuptial agreement to protect assets in the event of divorce and not a simple French marriage contract. You will want to balance the costs of a prenuptial agreement (these agreements often run to many pages and are highly detailed agreements unlike the typical French marriage contract) against the level of assets you want to protect. I work in collaboration with French lawyers to draft contracts for clients in this situation so that the agreement gives as much protection as possible, in both England and France. We give careful consideration to clauses in the agreement which choose the jurisdiction for divorce and the law to be applied (which can be relevant if the agreement is later being enforced abroad).