Recognition and enforcement of foreign court decisions in France
In France a foreign court decision can only be recognised and enforced if it is granted “exequatur” by the French Court of Justice (Tribunal Judiciaire).
What is the exequatur procedure?
The purpose of the French exequatur procedure is to make a decision given by a foreign judge enforceable in France.
A foreign court decision is not automatically enforceable in France as it is in the country in which it was handed down
In order to make a foreign court decision enforceable in France, it must therefore go through an international law procedure, called exequatur.
The exequatur procedure varies if the foreign decision was rendered in a EU member State or outside the European Union.
Exequatur in France of a non-European judgment
In the absence of an international agreement on the conditions of mutual recognition of court decisions between France and the country that issued the decision, the exequatur procedure is governed by article 509 of the French Code of civil procedure.
Article 509 of the Code of civil procedure provides that “judgments handed down by foreign courts and documents received by foreign officers are enforceable in France as set out by applicable law”.
In a decision of 20 February 2007, Cornelissen, the French Supreme court (Cour de cassation) set out the requirements for a foreign judgment to be granted exequatur.
Exequatur is granted if the foreign decision meets the following three requirements:
The decision is handed down by a court having jurisdiction: a foreign court is considered having jurisdiction if there is a clear link between the dispute and the country that issued the decision;
The foreign decision complies with international public policy: the foreign decision must comply with international substantive and procedural public policy rules; and
It must have been handed down in the absence of fraud: the decision must have been issued without any unfair manoeuvres for the sole purpose of evading the French rules of private international law.
The lawyer in the summons before the Court of Justice demonstrates that these three conditions have been met.
Granting exequatur in France of a decision given in the EU
The procedure for the enforcement of decisions within the European Union is simplified.
It is governed by Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters.
Under the Regulation, a judgment handed down in a Member State can be enforced within the European Union without an exequatur procedure.
Indeed, under Article 39 of the Regulation “A judgment given in a Member State which is enforceable in that Member State shall be enforceable in the other Member States without any declaration of enforceability being required”.
A recognition action is possible but not mandatory. In such case, the interested party should obtain a certificate issued by the court that gave the decision, stating that such judgment is enforceable in the country of origin.
A European decision can be enforced in France without any other prior formality.
The party who has been convicted by a European court decision may nevertheless bring an action to contest enforcement.
Caterina Giudiceandrea has extensive experience in recognition and enforcement proceedings in France in family matters (divorce, adoption, status of persons) as well as commercial matters. She is at your disposal to assist you in your proceedings.