In English and Welsh law, the marriage contract carries little weights before the judges. Although that view has recently been rejected by the Supreme Court, Parliament traditionally considers the Courts determines how assets should be divided on divorce.
French Family law is totally different. French parliament created a notion which doesn’t exist in English law: the matrimonial regime.
So it means that when you marry in France and live in France, an imperative matrimonial regime will apply even if you didn’t sign any contract with your spouse.
A regime applicable to all spouses
The law of matrimonial property regimes applies only to married couples. It regulates the organization of the spouse’s common life and sets up rules applicable in the event of the dissolution of the marriage, especially divorce or death.
As you may know, France is a country of civil law. Then you can find the rules of matrimonial regimes in the “Code civil”. The applicable articles are the following: 1387 and seq. and 203 to 226.
Freedom of matrimonial regime
In accordance with the principle of freedom of matrimonial agreements, spouses are free, before the celebration of their marriage, to choose the matrimonial regime of their choice. This choice is made by a marriage contract which must be drawn up by a notarial deed and signed by all parties involved.
The four matrimonial regimes
The spouses can choose one of the four regimes provided for in the Civil Code: legal community, contractual community, separation of property and participation in acquisitions. They may modify the contract if they respect public order and morality (article 1387 du Code civil).
The applicable matrimonial regime without choice
When the spouses didn’t choose a matrimonial regime, the matrimonial regime reduced to acquests will apply. This is what French law calls "the legal regime".
The mandatory applicable regime
Regardless of the matrimonial regime chosen by the spouses, the articles 203 to 226 of the Civil Code are applicable. These articles deals with obligations and rights between spouses (Civil Code, articles 214 to 226) which cannot be avoid by will.
The mass of assets in community regimes: property of each spouse and share property
In all community regimes, the spouses property will be divided into several masses : the property of each spouse and the common property. It is exactly the same for the debts. You will have own debts and share debts.
Héloïse Kawaishi, a French lawyer and mediator in London, can write your marriage contract applicable both in France and in England.