How to divorce without a judge in France
Since January 2017, you can divorce without going through a lengthy court process in France. Spouses wishing to divorce without a judge can acknowledge their consent in an out of court agreement in the presence of their lawyers.
This is called a divorce by mutual consent (divorce par consentement mutuel).
The procedure and requirements for the divorce by mutual consent are set out in articles 229-1 and following of the French civil code.
The spouses need to come to an agreement on all aspects of the divorce with the help of their respective lawyers and they especially need to agree on:
Measures regarding their children: custody and residence
Financial measures: alimony, compensatory allowance
The fate of the family home and the spouses' assets
The consent of the spouses is set out in a divorce agreement prepared by the parties’ lawyers. The divorce agreement is then sent to each spouse by registered mail.
The divorce agreement is signed by the spouses following a 15 day cooling-off period. The signed divorce agreement is also executed by the lawyers of each party.
The agreement is then submitted to a French notary for registration. Registration makes the divorce agreement enforceable in France.
How long does it take?
A divorce agreement is the quickest and cheapest kind of divorce in France. The duration obviously varies on the negotiations between the spouses. If the parties agree on all aspects of their divorce, it is possible to finalize and register a divorce agreement in approximately 1 month.
Can I sign remotely?
No, it is not possible to sign a divorce agreement remotely. Both spouses and their lawyers need to be physically present on the day of signing.
The French National Bar Association clearly indicated, on 8 February 2019, that “the divorce agreement by mutual consent without a judge must be signed in the physical presence and simultaneously by the parties and the attorneys mentioned in the agreement, without substitution or possible delegation”.
This requirement has not changed since COVID-19.
Two lawyers or one?
When divorcing without a judge, each spouse must be assisted by his or her own lawyer.
Article 229-1 of the French civil code clearly states that “when spouses agree on the break-up of the marriage and its consequences, they shall record, each assisted by a lawyer, their consent in an agreement […]”.
Can foreigners divorce without a judge in France?
Whilst all non-French citizen who live in France can sign a divorce agreement, not all countries recognize this type of divorce.
As the divorce agreement does not imply a court judgment, authorities from certain countries do not recognize the French divorce by mutual consent. This is for instance the case in the United States: not all American States recognize the French divorce agreement.
This means that, a couple could be considered as divorced in France however still be married in their home country if local authorities refuse to register the French out of court divorce.
It is therefore essential for your lawyer to reach out to local authorities before signing a divorce agreement to make sure that the document can be enforced and registered in your country of origin.
Should your home country not recognize the French out of court divorce, it will be necessary to take the matter to court.
Do not hesitate to reach out to Caterina Giudiceandrea should you have further questions on an international divorce.