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Wealth, marriage and prenuptial agreements in France (1855 - 2010)

Collection : Documents de travail

221, 2016, 73 pages

This paper investigates the evolution of prenuptial agreements, matrimonial property regimes and dowries in France over the period 1855-2010. These trends indicate that the financial characteristics of marriage have significantly changed over time. First, we note that prenuptial agreements have been widely used by the French couples to amend the default matrimonial property regime, in order to limit the husband’s discretion over the couple’s financial affairs or to protect the surviving spouse for instance. Second, this paper highlights the change in the nature of wealth caused by the decline of community regimes and the rise of separate property regimes since the 1960s. This individualisation of wealth contrasts with the preeminence of community regimes since the creation of the Civil Code in 1804. This evolution can be seen as a female empowerment as married women become more emancipated from the authority of fathers and husbands. From a wealth perspective, this paper shows that the return of wealth in France goes along with a change in the nature of wealth, which needs to be considered when studying historical trends.

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