A French Connection

In 1999, France legalized civil unions called  pacte civil de solidarité, known as Pacs. The Pacs is essentially a contract drawn up by a couple and registered by a county clerk. The couple is granted some, but not all, of the joint tax benefits and financial privileges of marriage. At the same time, they do not have the same inheritance rights or adoption rights as a married couple does. However, the individuals are no longer considered “single”. They file their taxes accordingly, the women are addressed as Madame, (the title equivalent to Mrs.) and their paper work reflects them as pacsé.

To dissolve the union, the couple has to write a letter to their court. “If they want to break up, however, they don’t need expensive lawyers or lengthy divorce proceedings. All they have to do is state their desire to call things off in an official letter to their locally competent legal court.”

While the union was originally created to legally acknowledge same-sex couples, heterosexual couples wanted in. Apparently, in an effort to grant rights to the homosexual community, France was ironically fulfilling a need in the heterosexual one: to be acknowledged as a couple and granted financial privileges without the hefty legal costs of divorce. According to bonjourparis.com, in 2009, ten years after the Pacs was established, a majority of the couples entering it were heterosexual. “94 percent of the newly Pacséd couples were of different sexes just as they would be in a classical marriage.”

When the Pacs dissolves it doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship is terminated, in some cases the couple decides to marry. (The statistic for those couples vary because it only applied to heterosexuals.) “Sociologists studying the institution interpret this as a strong sign that, in today’s modern society, a young French couple wants to use the PACS not to avoid a long-term commitment but to give it a trial period to be sure it will last, particularly if the long-term goal is to have children and found a family.”

What I find to be the most interesting out of all of this is, when the civil union was originally put into place it was for the benefit of same-sex couples, yet it has become a vehicle for opposite-sex couples–even though it grants them only a portion of the rights that marriage does. So, even given the opportunity to have “marital rights”, heterosexual couples were still choosing to have a limited version.

In 2010 there were 196,000 heterosexual couples who chose to enter a Pacs to 252,000 couples who chose to marry.  Why? Is it to lessen the severity of divorce? Is it to avoid commitment? to play house? If it’s as trivial as the last two then would there be such a high outcome? Perhaps it has become a marriage lite: a way of side-stepping the marital pressures of society, while still maintaining a committed relationship.

As of Tuesday, April 23, France legalized gay marriage. I’m curious to learn, now that gay marriage is legal, what will become of the Pacs? Will France do away with it or will it now be a buffer for both heterosexual and homosexual marriages?

Our society is evolving, with gay marriage on the rise, civil unions will become a thing of the past. Will this one-time anomaly of the pacte civil de solidarité ever be repeated? Even if couples are somehow benefiting from it? How or why they are benefiting we may not know right now, but, its popularity among straight couples could shed light on a better future for marriage.

Justice or Revenge?

Justice that love gives is a surrender, justice that law gives is a punishment- Mahatma Gandhi

In Marie Claire’s July issue was an article titled, “My Ex Sued Me-and Won.” The author, Kim Gamble, was in relationship for a few months when she and her boyfriend went on a trip to India. The trip didn’t go so well. After it ended the relationship did too. Her boyfriend ended up suing her for his half of the trip. It was for $900 and he won.

In France, a woman sued her husband for $14,000 for withholding sex. The women filed for divorce citing, “lack of sex in the bedroom.” According to Time, the ex-husband refused his wife relations over the 21 years they were married. He blamed it on health issues and exhaustion. The judge ruled in favor of the woman saying that sharing a life together implies having sex with each other.

In New York, a man is in a pending lawsuit against his ex-girlfriend for taking his dog, a Puggle named Knuckles, to California. He claimed the dog was kidnapped. Thus far, he has spent his life savings, $60,000, trying to get him back. The ex-girlfriend said they both paid for Knuckles and split the vet bills down the middle.

Are these cases created out of justice or revenge? If it is revenge, it makes you wonder how far people will go. In the article, “My Ex Sued Me-and Won,” Gamble mentions her ex, “didn’t want my money; he wanted to punish me.” She was sure this was an act of control, to make her come to court to see him one last time, to hear him out and give him the last say. She decided writing the check to avoid the court appearance was the best way to write him off for good.

The guy who spent $60,000 to get his dog back, well, the reason it’s all over the news is because, it’s a little crazy. It was his life’s savings. The ex-girlfriend claims he wants revenge for the relationship ending and her moving on. If he doesn’t win, I think he’s going to be really, really mad. I keep picturing him as the guy on the street corner with a beard and a harmonica with his dog sitting next to him. But, at least he’ll be able to sleep knowing  he won-even if it is in a cardboard box.

In the case of the woman in France, she was married to her husband for 21 years when she decided to divorce him. It wasn’t enough to divorce him and walk away, she needed to come back two years later and sue him. Perhaps, he had moved on or maybe, she just needed the time to muster up the confidence. Either way, the man’s ex-wife publicly humiliated his “sex-life” (or lack there of), and he had to pay her $14,000. I wonder how she came up with the evidence, or the amount in damages.

I put this article on our fridge so Mike could see it with a note that said, “Put out or get out, it’s legal now!” This made him very confused. He brought up a trip, decades ago, when apparantly I wasn’t feeling “up to it”…I don’t even know what he’s talking about. Lies!


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