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French divorce law changed this year. A new article 229 in the French Civil Code means couples that agree to a French divorce can now end their marriage without any judicial intervention at all. An agreement, signed by lawyers for both spouses, is sufficient to formalise the divorce. On the face of it the development would seem to make divorcing in France more straightforward than in England. But some commentators are already pointing out that the new ‘divorce by mutual consent’ in France is not without risk.

As international family lawyers Brookman Solicitors in London regularly advises individuals based here and in France about divorce and related matters.

Where Is The Best Place To Divorce? France V England

London is sometimes referred to as the sixth biggest French city – 250,000 French nationals live here. And according to UN figures in 2015, 190,000 UK-born people now live in France.

Often clients ask us where is the best place to divorce. An English couple based in France may be able to divorce in England or France. Similarly a French couple in London or elsewhere could potentially start proceedings in either jurisdiction. But because both countries apply different rules to financial settlements the outcome can be very different depending on which country deals with the divorce. English courts for example have a reputation for favouring the financially weaker spouse.

An added complexity is that the country that receives a divorce petition first – provided it has the legal jurisdiction to deal with the case – will decide all matters. This means that there is often a ‘race’ between spouses to issue a divorce petition in one country over another.

Could the recent development in French divorce law change the way we approach divorces where a couple has the option to issue proceedings in either France or the UK?

How Does The New French Divorce Procedure Work?

The new method of divorce in France is for divorce by mutual consent. In summary the procedure is as follows:

  • Both spouses reach agreement on all matters
  • The agreement is set out in a private contract after each side has received separate legal advice
  • The parties and their respective lawyers sign the agreement
  • Following a fifteen-day cooling off period the agreement is registered with a French notary. This means it is enforceable under French law

Because of the simplicity of the procedure more people may wish to issue petitions in France rather than England or elsewhere. Because there is no requirement for a couple to have a connection to France in order to instigate the new divorce procedure there, some believe it could lead to a free-for-all with France becoming a kind of Las Vegas-style ‘quickie’ divorce centre.

Criticism Of The New French Divorce

The new system has critics, with family law specialists highlighting a number of potential flaws:

  • The lack of judicial oversight means one side may accept an agreement that is not in his or her interests just to avoid a long divorce process
  • There is no requirement for full financial disclosure so someone could agree to a divorce without understanding their real financial entitlement
  • The new divorce settlement is effectively a private contract. So it could be argued that there is no point at which the French courts use their jurisdiction. Would it be open to a dissatisfied spouse after signing a divorce contract under the new French procedure to subsequently initiate proceedings in an English court?
  • Under the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act English courts have a discretionary power to order a financial settlement even when one has already been reached elsewhere

Whether these criticisms are justified remains to be seen. The new French law is still in its infancy. But it does show some of the complex issues that arise when divorcing abroad. If you have any concerns about where to issue a divorce petition or on the divorce process generally please call us on + 44 (0)20 7430 8470 or contact us online. We offer specialist advice on divorce with an international element.

Can My Spouse Take The Children To A New Location Away From Me?

Date: May 18th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  We understand the fear and panic you may feel if your spouse threatens to move away with your children. You do have legal options available to you so it is always useful to seek legal advice at an early stage. At Brookman in London we deal with this issue regularly. Usually in one of… Read the full article

Can I Use Legal Aid For My Divorce?

Date: May 15th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  In recent years the government has placed significant restrictions on the availability of legal aid in family law cases, including divorce. Although there is limited financial assistance available for couples embarking on mediation this is subject to a means test. You can check whether you qualify for legal aid on the government’s website.  … Read the full article

If I Transfer Assets To A Family Member Before Or During Divorce, Could Those Assets Be Included In The Financial Settlement?

Date: May 10th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  The short answer is yes – they could. There is an obligation on both parties in a divorce to disclose assets fully and frankly. And courts need marital property to be preserved until it reaches a final decision that is fair to both sides. Transfers of assets to family members or third parties before… Read the full article

What happens to my pension if I divorce?

Date: March 23rd, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Your pension is an asset just like any other. During divorce you must disclose it on Form E along with all your property, including savings, shares and other assets. The starting point for pension division is the same as with other property – that’s 50/50 between spouses. But the reality is that the final… Read the full article

Can I divorce a spouse who is not in the country?

Date: March 19th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  You can issue divorce proceedings against a spouse who is not in the country if: The courts here have jurisdiction to accept your petition and There are appropriate grounds for divorce International or ‘ex pat’ divorces like this sometimes raise complex issues about property division, maintenance and the care of any children. It’s therefore… Read the full article

Are prenups binding in the UK?

Date: March 15th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  If a prenuptial agreement is fair it’s likely that the courts in England and Wales will recognise it as binding on the parties. Of course there is continued debate over what constitutes fairness in the context of an agreement like this. As a result the precise legal status of prenups is still to some… Read the full article

Divorce lawyer reviews

Date: January 23rd, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  All solicitors undergo rigorous training. This gives you a degree of reassurance when searching for the right divorce solicitor. In addition the Solicitors Regulation Authority monitors professional conduct and all solicitors are required to hold professional indemnity insurance. So if something goes wrong with your legal representation there are ways to rectify matters. This… Read the full article

What are the benefits of a free consultation?

Date: January 19th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Solicitors frequently offer free consultations – either by phone or in person. For individuals confronting family law issues, including separation and divorce these appointments offer real benefits. If you are looking for a family or divorce lawyer a free consultation could be the first step towards finding a solicitor you can trust and rely… Read the full article

How to choose the best divorce lawyer

Date: January 15th, 2018 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  Today there is a wealth of information online and elsewhere about finding the best divorce lawyer for you. It can make reaching a decision on which law firm to choose overwhelming. Relying on word of mouth recommendations from friends and colleagues is useful. But a lawyer who proves a good fit for one person… Read the full article

Out Of Court Divorce In France: Will It Work?

Date: December 1st, 2017 - Written by: Brookman Solicitors

  French divorce law changed this year. A new article 229 in the French Civil Code means couples that agree to a French divorce can now end their marriage without any judicial intervention at all. An agreement, signed by lawyers for both spouses, is sufficient to formalise the divorce. On the face of it the… Read the full article


Google Reviews

Brookman Solicitors

42 Reviews

Chris Mullins 10/12/2018

Henry Brookman and team have been fantastic from initial point of contact. They were able to schedule me a 'free telephone consult' at short notice in order to fit with my travel plans. I have now received sound written legal advice from both UK and Overseas perspective which has given me great reassurance and peace of mind. I am now understanding of the legal journey I am to face and have confidence that his team will be able to support me!

Syeda Rizvi 09/11/2018

I can’t recommend Brookman solicitors enough. I met with Mr Aziz Malik from Brookman solicitors for a case that had an international dimension to it, and found him extremely competent, professional, reassuring and empathetic. Knowing that my case was time sensitive, Mr Aziz was quick to initiate the legal process, kept me updated on the case progress, responded very promptly to all my correspondence, gave very sincere legal advice and addressed all my concerns in a very patient and responsible fashion. He was very involved in the case, and I knew from the get go that my case was in safe hands. Throughout the process, the law firm also kept me posted on the costs of the services I was getting, hence making the process very convenient and transparent for me. The barrister they appointed to represent me at the hearing(s) was equally competent, knowledgeable and articulate. Thanks to Brookman solicitors, the outcome of my case was exactly what I had wished for, and I am beyond delighted. I am extremely grateful to them for their services. Please keep up the good work!

Nir Ozer 07/11/2018

Henry Brookman was very honest and helpful with the professional quick legal service. It's wonderful to know you get a proper advice when needed. I definitely recommend this law firm.

Chris Saunders 26/10/2018

I engaged Brookman Solicitor's on a particularly complex topic related to international divorce. Henry and his team provided excellent support and his expertise was a critical factor in a successful outcome. I would not hesitate in working with this firm again, or recommending them to others.

Petra LP 25/10/2018

Replied to my query very quickly and was very helpful and understanding.