June 6

Does the Judge take into account the opinion of the children before deciding which parent will have custody?

The child’s opinion will be taken in to account if the Judge believes he/she is in age of having a point of view. French Judges usually admit this capacity from the age of 7 or 8, depending on the maturity of the child. Theoretically the child can testify in Court but this is quite unusual. To avoid the trauma of a court appearance a lawyer “l’avocat de l’enfant” is usually appointed to represent the child, at the request of one of the parents.

This lawyer is paid by legal aid and is completely independent from the parents. He/she has received a special training on how to interview children and will speak in the name of the child during court hearings.
This is a relatively reliable way of giving the position of the child on custody, visitation rights etc…

May 5

Can shared custody be ordered even if one spouse opposes to it?

Traditionally in France Custody over children was given to the mother.

The father would have a visitation right usually two weekends a month plus half of the school holidays.

Sometimes, the father was granted an extra visitation day during the school week.

The father would have the obligation of paying child support to his ex wife.

During the last ten years shared custody has become a trend in France.

Even if the other spouse doses not agree, shared custody will be granted if it is possible from a practical point of view.

For shared custody to be granted:

  • parents must live sufficiently close to each other to allow the child to go to school and leisure activities without to much hassle,
  • both parents have a professional activity compatible with education of children (for instance: not implying night work or lots of traveling).

When it is granted judges usually order that the children spend alternately one week with each parent.

There will be no obligation of payment of child support unless there is a very substantial difference of income between parents.

March 5

What happens to matrimonial assets and debts after divorce?

Matrimonial assets (money on bank accounts, furniture, vehicles, former matrimonial home) and debts (rent areas, taxes due, short fall of mortgage) will be dealt with separately from the divorce proceeding.

If there is no agreement on liquidation of matrimonial assets between spouses the dispute will be settled by a Judge.

In a mutual consent divorce the assets must be liquidated before the Judge can pronounce the divorce.

In all the other form of divorce (for example: divorce for fault, divorce for separation for more than two years) the liquidation of matrimonial assets can be ordered by the Judge sometimes many years after the divorce is pronounced.

If the ex-spouses do not agree on the fate of the former matrimonial home, it will be sold during a court auction, usually at a price far below the market price.

To avoid this it is preferable to reach an of out of court agreement.