PACS stands for an Pacte Civil De Solidarité and is a form of civil union between either same-sex or opposite-sex couples (Yes, you've probably just thought of Elton John). We began the process of applying for ours on 22 March, when we booked an appointment with our Notaire and the agreement was drawn up. It cost us €650, took an hour and we left feeling we'd got something to celebrate. It seemed a good alternative to marriage (something else we've talked about but never got around to doing) and there would be advantageous tax benefits, because this is France not the U.K.
I returned to the Notaire a few days later to collect the document and was also given details of the next part of the procedure. It was not going to be as simple as just going to the local solicitor and signing a form in triplicate. Oh no. The form had to be registered at a court in a nearby large town. I came home and rang the number I'd been given for the next stage.
This consisted of receiving a badly photocopied form listing various documents we had to acquire before the official registration of our PACS could take place. We had to have birth certificates (not just ones we had already but newly certificated copies) and passports translated into French. Not just by 'anybody' , but by somebody who was qualified to translate as a court official. This seemed ridiculous, as passports these days have English/French titles alongside the relevant information. As foreigners we also had to apply to a tribunal in Paris for a certificate attesting to the fact that we did not have a PACS with anyone else living in France. Plus we each had to write letters swearing that we lived in our town and that we were honest people.
I duly found a qualified translator; we sent our newly acquired and newly certificated copies of birth certificates and our original passports (only original docs allowed to be viewed by the court qualified translator) away to her, which left me feeling somewhat vulnerable. A silly feeling, I realise, but nonetheless quite real.
In the meantime I had written to the Paris tribunal for the attestation and was told it could not be issued until we had sent them translated copies of the birth certs and passports. Well that was okay, I thought. We were already doing it. About ten days later (during which time I was in hospital but that's another blog entry) we got the recorded delivery envelope back from the translator. We were in business! We'd had the relevant documents translated into French.
I came out of hospital and one of the first things I did was send everything off to the tribunal in Paris and we received the Attestation a few days later. It had a one month duration (the translated copies of passport and birth certs had a three month duration - go on, figure).
I just felt happy that we were almost at the registration stage and rang the relevant person in a nearby large town.
Now I speak and understand French quite well but have to admit that phone conversations are somewhat harder than face to face chats. The woman I had to deal with (who would be our court official for the registration) rattled off a new phrase I just did not understand. I understood the fact that she was asking me if I had this one thing but I just couldn't figure out what she was saying. I asked her to spell it and she refused, telling me if I couldn't understand her language then what was I doing in her country, let alone trying to register a PACS. I was stunned at her rudeness. At one stage she pressed the mute button on her phone and I was imagining her saying all sorts of things about me to her colleagues. She said she would send me a letter and then hung up.
I then rang our Notaire to ask what on earth this woman had been going on about, as we had all the documents listed on the original spec. She explained that this particular woman did not like foreigners living in France and I was not the first person to phone and complain and wonder what this new document was. I was then told that the word I had been wondering about was Coutume and the actual doc was a Certificat de Coutume which I would get from the British Embassy in Paris.
With time running out on our existing documents I rang the Embassy straight away, spoke with a helpful and considerate person (no, she wasn't French) and the documents were turned around in 72 hours. This particular doc is an attestation by the Embassy that neither my partner or I have a PACS agreement with anybody in the UK. It is an important document and the Embassy official was amazed that it was not listed on our original Documents Required letter.
Right, now we had it all. Everything needed to go and register our PACS. I decided I wouldn't speak to evil woman again but rang our Notaire to ask her to make the appointment for me. She agreed and then rang me back to say that evil woman was away on holiday for the rest of the week (last week in fact). Our Notaire tried her again on Monday (two days ago) and was told that she was busy all week with tribunals and would not be able to take any telephone calls until next Tuesday.
I know exactly what she is playing at. She knows there is a deadline on some of the papers and is trying to catch us out. I've just written a letter to the body in Paris which provides the certs to say you don't have a PACS with anyone else in France, to see if they can send me a new attestation with a later expiry date.
To be continued...