Civil Partnership Jurisdiction Dispute

The Family Court has concluded that a man (the applicant) was domiciled in France at the time he made the application for the dissolution of his pacte civil de solidarité (PACS), a form of civil partnership.

Born in England to a French father and English mother, the applicant’s claim (that he was domiciled in England and so the Family Court should have jurisdiction to hear dissolution proceedings) failed. A PACS is treated as an ’overseas relationship’ under the Civil Partnership Act 2004, such that the parties have all the rights and obligations that flow from a domestic civil partnership, including the right to financial remedies on dissolution.

His partner, the respondent, is a British citizen and had moved to France in 2006 after meeting the applicant at a mountain resort in France, where the applicant lived.

The respondent, gave birth to their daughter in England in 2013 but the couple continued living in France and entered into the PACS in January 2022. The relationship broke down in 2023 and the applicant applied for the dissolution of the PACS in this jurisdiction.

Mr Justice Poole said: ‘He referred in his evidence to ordering his preferred coffee from Harrods, to watching English television, supporting English sporting teams, and having English speaking friends.’

But the court heard evidence the couple were ‘settled in’ to family life at the French mountain resort and that their daughter was in school in France.

‘The fact that you and your life partner have chosen to plant your child firmly within family and societal life within a country is strong evidence that you, as their parents, intend to stay there indefinitely yourselves.’ Mr Justice Poole said.  ’There is a clear difference of approach between the legal regime in England and Wales governing the dissolution of a civil partnership and the legal regime in France governing the dissolution of a PACS, but that difference does not persuade me to find as unsuitable what would otherwise be the more appropriate forum. There is certainly a financial disadvantage to the applicant, and advantage to the respondent, of ceding forum to France, but that is not a sufficient reason not to do so when convenience and close connection makes France the appropriate forum.’

The judge added that the applicant had expressed a wish for his ashes to be scattered ‘at a certain beautiful location’ in the mountain resort area.  ‘By itself this would not be evidence determinative of an intention indefinitely to remain resident there, but it certainly adds to the evidence of such an intent in all the circumstances of this case.’

 

Safeena Tufail

Published on 12/06/2024

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