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  • Photo du rédacteurCaterina Giudiceandrea

Guide to divorce in France for expats

Navigating the complexities of divorce is challenging, and it can be especially daunting for expatriates in a foreign country. France, with its unique legal system, presents specific procedures and considerations for expats seeking a divorce.

This guide aims to clarify the process and provide practical advice for those going through divorce in France.

Understanding the legal framework of expat divorce in France


For an expat seeking divorce in France, it is crucial to determine if you can get divorced in France.

French courts can adjudicate a divorce if:

  • Both spouses live in France.

  • The spouse who did not file for divorce resides in France.

  • The couple last lived together in France, and one spouse still lives there.

  • The spouse filing for divorce has lived in France for at least a year before filing.

Grounds for Divorce

France recognizes four types of divorce:

  1. Divorce by Mutual Consent: Simplest and fastest, requiring an agreement on all aspects, including property division and child custody.

  2. Divorce for Acceptance of the Principle of Marital Breakdown: Both spouses agree to divorce but may dispute other matters.

  3. Divorce by Permanent Breakdown of the Marriage: If the couple has lived apart for at least one year.

  4. Divorce for Fault: Involves proving one spouse's misconduct, such as abuse or domestic violence.

The process for expats divorcing in France

  • Consulting a Lawyer

Both parties need to engage separate lawyers experienced in international divorce in France. This ensures that each party's rights and interests are adequately represented.

  • Filing the Petition

The process begins with one spouse (the petitioner) filing a divorce petition at the Tribunal judiciaire (the High Court).

  • Serving the Petition

The petition must be served to the other spouse (the respondent), who has a set period to respond.

  • First Hearing

The initial hearing focuses on temporary measures, including child custody, spousal support, and living arrangements during the divorce proceedings.

  • Negotiations throughout the divorce process

Based on the context, throughout the divorce process it is possible to find amicable agreements on certain aspects of the divorce. Mediation is often used to resolve disputes amicably. Mediation can be particularly beneficial for reaching agreements on child custody.

  • Final Hearing

If an agreement is reached, the court reviews and approves it. In contested cases, the court decides on unresolved issues before granting the divorce.

Key considerations for expats divorcing in France

Child Custody and Support

  • French courts prioritize the child's "best interests", considering factors like the child's habitual residence, parental involvement, and stability.

  • International aspects, such as the possibility of one parent relocating abroad, are also taken into account.

Division of Assets

  • In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, rules applicable to the division of assets essentially depend on the law's of the couple's first place of residence after marriage.

  • Understanding the implications of prenuptial agreements and the distinction between personal and communal property is essential.

Spousal Support or Spousal Maintenance

  • Courts may award spousal support based on factors such as the length of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, and the financial needs and capacities of both spouses.

  • In France there is no formula to calculate spousal support.

Practical tips for expat divorce in France

  • Understand the Legal System

Familiarize yourself with French divorce laws and procedures, by consulting an English speaking divorce lawyer in France to bridge any language barriers.

  • Gather Documentation

Prepare necessary documents, including marriage certificates and birth certificates (that must be less than 6 months old), proof of residence, financial records, and any relevant prenuptial agreements.

  • Consider the Impact on Residency

Divorce may affect your residency status in France. Check the implications and ensure your legal right to stay in the country post-divorce.


Divorcing in France as an expat involves navigating a complex legal landscape, but with the right preparation and professional guidance, you can manage the process effectively.

For personalized advice and support, get in contact with us. We will provide you with tailored assistance based on your unique circumstances.

Caterina is a native English speaking international family lawyer in France, specializing in expat divorce in France.


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