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Home > Family > France > 1933-03-14 - Court of cassation, Cousin de Lavallière, Recueil Sirey, 1934, (...)

1933-03-14 - Court of cassation, Cousin de Lavallière, Recueil Sirey, 1934, 1, 161.

Family · France · Marriage · Polygamy

Putative marriage and bigamy

Key facts of the case - Mr de Lavallière, administrator of the colonies, had married two women (who were sisters) following the Guinean local customs. They had three children and the mothers claimed they are entitled to inherit after their father deceased.

Main reasoning of the Court - The Court of cassation does not question the reality of those indigenous marriages but denies the good faith of the spouses. Indeed, marriages had been celebrated with the view to win a bet. Accordingly, the effects of putative marriages, that is a void marriage that spouses or one of the spouses thought it was valid, cannot be implemented.
Article 201 of the civil code provides that a marriage which has been declared void produces, nevertheless, its effects with regard to the spouses, where it was contracted in good faith. Where good faith exists only on the part of one spouse, the marriage produces its effects only in favour of that spouse.

Comment - The polygamous marriages – very often bigamy – are an old issue in French case law and it looks like the colonial context is to be taken into account, as proves it this famous case “Cousin de Lavallière”. In addition, regarding children, Article 202 of the civil code was modified in 1972. It now provides that a marriage which has been declared void also produces its effects with regard to the children, even though none of the spouses was in good faith.