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Different types of divorce in France

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Mutual consent divorce

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Contested divorce

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Divorce implications

PacisLexis Family Law

Family and Divorce lawyer

According to article 227 of the Civil Code, marriage ends by the death of one of the spouses or by getting a divorce.

Getting a divorce means legally ending your marriage. It means that you will no longer be legally joined to your partner.

A study carried out by INSEE highlights an increase in the rate of divorced couples. Indeed, the divorce rate was 10 % in 1970, reached 52 % in 2005 to drop to 44 % in 2014. The longer the marriage lasts, the lower the chances of divorce are.

There are several types of divorce. Choosing the best option can be difficult, this is why it is important to know your rights and duties.

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Types of divorce in France

What is the difference between a divorce and a legal separation?

A legal separation is when both partners agree on living separately and are authorized to do so by a Family Court judge.

A divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage by a Court or other competent body.

What to do before a divorce to make it a smoother process?

A divorce or a separation can be an emotionally charged and difficult time. It’s harder when communication is broken.

It’s essential for each family member to keep the communication going to avoid misunderstandings and issues.

Getting separated can be challenging and difficult. Do your best to get a smooth separation or a divorce to protect everyone and with a peace of mind. Mediation can be helpful too.

Mediation is a way of sorting any differences between you and your partner, with the help of a third person who won’t take sides. The third person is called a mediator. They can help you reach an agreement about issues with money, property or children.

Is it possible to meet with several lawyers before deciding who will represent you in your divorce proceedings?


You are free to choose your lawyer, that’s why we advise you to meet with several lawyers before choosing the one who will defend your interests.

As getting a divorce is an intimate matter, it is essential that you feel reassured and confident with your family law lawyer.

Are there several types of divorce in France?


There are two types of divorce: consensual divorces and contested divorces.

You should only do a consensual divorce through a joint application if you’re sure you’ll be able to agree with your partner throughout the whole divorce or dissolution process. More than half of divorces are done throughout joint applications.

There are 2 types of joint applications in France:

– Divorce by mutual consent through lawyers (article 229-1 to 229-4 of the Civil Code),

– Divorce by mutual consent through the Courts (articles 230 to 232 of the Civil Code)

A contested divorce means there is a dispute between spouses. In France, a contested divorce means:

What is a mutual agreement divorce through lawyers?

The French divorce by mutual consent through lawyer’s act is a joint application.

It means that there is no dispute between the spouses. Both partners agree on separation arrangements.

A separation agreement is drawn up by each partner’s lawyer. It is then certified by a competent body (court or notary)

A consent order is a legal document that confirms your agreement. It explains how you’re going to divide up assets including child maintenance. If your agreement is not legally binding, Courts won’t approve it. (article 1099 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

In which case is a mutual consent divorce through lawyers impossible?

According to article 229-2 of the Civil Code, A mutual consent divorce through lawyers is impossible when:

  • A spouses’ child requests to be heard the Court.
  • A guardianship order has been granted for one of the spouses

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Types of divorce in France:… Next

What is a contested divorce?

This type of divorce means you want to divorce but you and your partner can’t find an agreement about assets and children.

The first step of a contested divorce in France is the dissolution settlement filed to Courts by both lawyers.

Can an adult with a guardianship order get a contested divorce?


Since the 1st of January 2021, adults with a guardianship order can get a contested divorce.

What is a divorce for irreparable breakdown of the marriage?

This type of divorce is when you and your partner have been living separately for a year:

  • You already asked for a dissolution
  • An application is filed to Courts (article 238 of the Civil Code).

You or your partner will be asked to provide evidence of a separate life such as tax notification, proof of address, pictures, rent payments or tenancy agreement…

Please note:  If a sole application has been filed before the 1st of January 2021, a 2-year separation is needed to ask for that type of divorce.

What is a fault divorce in French law?

According to article 242 of the civil code, a fault divorce may be granted when a spouse proves that the other one did something which resulted in the failure of the marriage.

Fault grounds for divorce are adultery, cruelty, domestic abuse, criminal activity…

Evidence of the fault will be requested. It can be pictures, testimonies, fit notes…

How much does a divorce cost?

Each divorce case is unique and its price will thus be different. 

The most important factor on the price is whether or not a couple can agree on the terms of the divorce: the more negociation and litigation is required, the higher the price. 

Some other factors must be taken into consideration, such as the couple’s assets or properties, whether there is a child custody issue…

Lawyers hourly rate is the most common way legal fees are charged but other payment options can exist such as flat rate billings.

The spouses got married abroad but they did not register the marriage in France, can they get divorced?


France does not recognize marriages performed in other countries.

You will have to get a statement of your marriage and have it registered legally in France first before getting a divorce.

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Mutual consent agreement divorce process

What is the process for a French divorce by mutual consent through lawyers?

When spouses agree on the divorce and on the terms, they first must contact their lawyers.

Steps are as follows:

  1. Both appointed lawyers get in touch
  2. Lawyers negotiate the terms
  3. Lawyers draft the divorce agreement,
  4. Lawyers send a recorded letter to the spouses
  5. A legal 14-day-period is given to the spouses to reflect on the proposed agreement
  6. A physical meeting is set with the appointed lawyers and the spouses to sign the agreement
  7. Both lawyers get a 7-day timeline to file the separation agreement with a notary,
  8. The notary has a 15-day timeline to record the agreement.
  9. The Notaire files a registration certificate to both lawyers back
  10. A final order is served
Do the spouses have to have separate lawyers?


For a mutual consent agreement divorce, spouses must each appoint a different lawyer (article 229-1 of the Civil Code).

What is the process for a mutual consent judicial divorce?

The steps are:

  1. Both appointed lawyers get in touch
  2. Lawyers negotiate the terms
  3. A divorce agreement settlement is drawn up
  4. Upon the spouses’ request a family law judge is appointed,
  5. The Court holds a hearing of the child,
  6. Court hearing with the spouses and their lawyers,
  7. Court final order.
Is it compulsory to get 2 different lawyers for a mutual consent judicial divorce?


You can seek for 2 different lawyers or get one for both (article 1089 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

Can a mutual consent agreement divorce become a contested divorce?


If you and your partner start to disagree on the terms, the mutual consent process can change to a contested divorce process.

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Mutual consent agreement divorce process:…Next

Can the spouses object to the final order?


After a court final order, it’s unlikely you can object unless bringing an appeal to the Supreme Court within 15 days after the final order is served (article 1103 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

For a mutual consent divorce when does the marriage legally ends?

For a mutual consent divorce through lawyers, the marriage legally ends when the agreement order is filed with the notary. 

For a mutual consent divorce through Courts, the marriage legally ends when the final order is served.

When is the divorce official to third-parties?

The divorce is official when the civil registration services have recorded it on both partners birth certificates.

Is a change in spouses civil registration mandatory?


The change is mandatory to keep third-parties (such as debtors) updated.

How long is the mutual consent divorce process?

A mutual consent divorce can range from a month to 2 years depending on your county court and their workload.

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Contested divorce process

What is the process for a French contested divorce?

Since the 1st of January 2021, the steps are as follow:

  1. Sole or joint application.
  2. Court hearing: This step is not crucial but happens quite often. A family Court judge decides on the terms of a temporary order while waiting for the final one.  This decision is about interim measures: mostly what will happen to your money, property and who will look after the children.
  3. A pre-trial review is held. The aim is to make sure the trial will proceed efficiently, particular area of dispute being identified and to set a timetable for both partners and their lawyers.
  4. If all necessary steps have been taken in preparation for trial, the judge ends the pre-trial timeline. If not, the judge is required to exercise a managerial role to make progress in the case and set the timetable for both partners and lawyers.
  5. The family law Court issues a final order.
What sort of interim measures can the judge set?

Interim measures are broad.

Here are some examples:

  • Where both partners should live,
  • How the spouses will share assets and belongings,
  • Who will pay and for what,
  • Who will pay a rent to the other or not during the divorce process,
  • Children custody, maintenance and responsibility and where they will live
Do spouses have to go to the Court to hear the interim measures?

No, but it is highly recommended!

Do spouses have to go to the Court to hear the interim measures when they have requested them?


If a spouse have asked for interim measures, they must be present on the day of the audience.

Does a spouse have to go to Court if they have not requested interim measures?

No !

If a spouse has not requested interim measures, it is not mandatory for them to be present on the day of the audience. 

However, their lawyer must be present to represent them. 

What was the divorce process before the 1st of January 2021?

When the French divorce application is prior to January 1, 2021, the procedure is as follow:

  1. Court notification,
  2. Notice of the hearing date to the spouses,
  3. Mediation hearing,
  4. Dispute order,
  5. Divorce application,
  6. Divorce hearing,
  7. Divorce judgment.
Do the spouses have to get a lawyer for a contested divorce?


Each spouse must be represented by their own lawyer.

When a spouse serves the other, he has 15 days to get a lawyer.

If the hearing date is less than 15 days after given notice is given, the respondent may represent himself at the hearing (article 1108 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

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Contested divorce process:…Next

Is it possible to get a fast divorce?

Yes !

You can apply to the Court to get an emergency court order in certain circumstances. The facts that justify the expedited procedure must be mentionned in your application (article 840 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

If the court agrees that the matter is urgent, the judge will authorize the plaintiff to serve the respondent and will set the date of the hearing within one to 2 months, depending on the workload of the court. (article 841 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

If the Courts does deem the divorce as an emergency, the judge will send them off to a classic divorce process

What documents do I need to get divorced?

To divorce, some documents are mandatory:

  • Birth certificate of the spouses,
  • Child or Children birth certificate(s),
  • Marriage certificate,
  • Family record book.

All these documents must be less than three months old.

It is advised to ask for these documents and gather them before your first appointment with your attorney. 

What evidence can be produced in a contested divorce?

In divorce proceedings, facts may be proven by any means. Every type of evidence may be produced (pictures, testimony, recordings…)

For example, in a fault divorce case, a spouse may be aythorized to produce the other spouse’s diary. 

However, children are not allowed to testify.

Can spouses get back together during a contested divorce process?


A divorce is a breakup, and couples can get back together.

If the spouses decide they wish to get back together,  notice should be served to the Court to end the process.

Can spouses change the type of divorce they want during the proceedings?


A fault or contested divorce may be changed to a mutual consent divorce agreement at any point (article 247-1 of the Civil Code).

They can also chose to change to an amicable divorce (article 247 of the Civil Code).

Please note: Spouses who did a joint application can’t change it to a contested divorce. 

Can a spouse change a joint application to a sole application?


If the spouse wishes to change to a fault-divorce  (article 247-2 of the Civil Code).

Can a spouse request a legal separation while the divorce procedure is taking place?


A spouse may ask the court to change the divorce procedure to a legal separation procedure (article 1076 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

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Contested divorce process:…Next

Is it possible to get a different attorney during a divorce process?

Yes !

You are free to choose who will represent you. 

You can change attorneys as often as you want. Your previous lawyer will only have to transfer the paperwork to the new one.

Can children give sworn testimony?


According to article 259 of the Civil Code, children can not give sworn testimony in divorce proceedings.

Can the spouses object the final order?


Spouses can object the final order within a month throughout bailiff services. However, you need to provide new evidence to appeal.

And no!

Only in rare occasions and within 15 days after the final order is served, you can appeal.

Can I object a final order without a lawyer?


It’s compulsory to get a lawyer.

Regarding parental custody and responsibility or for a guardianship order, you do not have to get a lawyer.

When is a French divorce legally official?

A divorce is official at the date of the final order.

Is it legal for French expats to get a divorce abroad?


With a foreign final judicial order, you can get a change in your civil registration in France.

How long does it take to get a divorce petition?

From 8 months to 3 years depending on the efficiency and the speed of the Court and your circumstances…

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Divorce implications

Can I get spousal maintenance?

Yes !

French law Article 266 of the civil code explains that spousal maintenance is possible depending on the circumstances of the divorce.

Spousal maintenance arises where one party’s income or assets are insufficient to meet day to day need.

It may be lowered or dismissed by Courts based on a change in circumstances or in case of a fault divorce.

Our family law firm can help you calculate spousal maintenance thanks to our AI software.

Can I keep my married name after a divorce?

No, but there are exceptions !

French law states that after a divorce, both parties will return to their maiden name. 

However, in some cases, a spouse may want to keep their married name for example to keep the same one as their children or because they used it in their professional life.

In any case, changing back to your maiden name once divorced is recommended (article 264 of the Civil Code).

What about financial perks of marriage?

You are not entitled to anything you don’t jointly own.

What are the implications of a divorce regarding a marital agreement in France?

By law, Divorce results in the dissolution of any marital agreement.

What about assets and properties bought together?

When you divorce, all the assets of the marriage are treated as joint assets. If spouses can’t find an agreement there is what we call an ownership-based time. All assets and debts are listed leading to a final amount.

After the list is finalized, all assets and debts are divided between spouses known as dissolution in France (article 267 of the Civil Code).

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Divorce implications:… Next

In France, can the spouses refuse to share assets and properties?


The division of all assets and properties is not mandatory.

Some spouses just don’t want to share them.

What happens the family home after divorce?

The family home is a real estate property under a specific regime.

However the court can decide to redistribute the marital property by allowing one of the spouses to reside in it if they agree to pay their ex-partner a rent or the mortgage (article 267 of the civil code).

Exclusive occupancy rights give one spouse the right to live in the house (article 285-1 of the civil code).

What are the implications of a divorce if the family home is a rental?

During the marriage, both partners’ names should be on the tenancy agreement. If a spouse decides to leave, he will still have to pay the rents and arrears.

Once the final order is served, a spouse can ask the landlord to sign a new tenancy agreement or to remove their ex-partner’s name in the tenancy.

What about taxes after getting divorced?

Instead of filing a joint tax application, both partners will have to file their own sole application.

In French Family Law, what are the consequences of divorce on children?

During divorce proceedings, several implications concerning the children must be considered and decicded upon:

  • Parental responsability
  • Child maintenance
  • Child custody
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To help you
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PacisLexis Family Law

You want to learn more about how to get divorced?

PacisLexis Family Law advises and defends you during your divorce process.

Whenever possible, we advise a mutual consent divorce process. However, depending on the circumstances, we will defend you in a case of contested divorce.

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Our articles about divorce & separation

Children maintenance

Children maintenance

Children maintenance definition

Children maintenance is a set of payments made from one parent to another to help pay for your child’s living costs. It’s paid by the parent who doesn’t usually live with the child to the person who has most day-to-day care of the child and called ’child support’.

This payment is not only based on day-to-day care of the child but also on both parents’ earnings.

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Separation means ending your relationship or stopping living together.

Regarding the French Law, there are differents ways and obstacles to separate depending if you’re married, in a French PACS or cohabitation (French civil partnership).

Therefore, there is different ways to end the relationship:

Divorce is to permanently end your marriage and you or your partner can apply.
PACS dissolution is to permanently end your ‘civil partnership’ and you and your partner both must send the request of dissolution to the civil service where they got ‘pacsed’.
Cohabitation dissolution has no obligation regarding the French Law. In some cases a damages allowance can be asked.

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Postnuptial agreement

Postnuptial agreement

Marital agreement definition

A set of financial rules and duties regarding marital life here is the definition of a marital agreement. Before getting married spouses can agree on how they want to manage financial matters within their household such as getting a pre-nuptial agreement. If the spouses do not attend a prenup agreement (for the French law), then they will automatically get involved into the universal community of assets.

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