What every the type of divorce (fault, no fault, mutual consent) assistance or representation through a French “Avocat” is compulsory.
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.
All domestic litigation depends on the jurisdiction of the “Juge aux affaires familiales”. In each French “Département” (French administrative division more or less equivalent to a British county), there are generally one or two Court, grouping several “Juges” specialised in domestic issues.
If both spouses live in France, it is the Judge closest to the residence of the children who will have Jurisdiction. If there are no children it will be the Judge of the residence of the defendant.
In trans European cases, when one spouse lives in a EU country and the other in another, the question is more complex. This matter comes under Council Regulation No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003. In compliance with this Regulation, spouses can sometimes have the choice between the two legal systems. The usual residence of the children will also be taken into account. In this delicate matter one should seek the advise of a legal practitioner.
The average duration of a divorce is about 12 month.
Duration will strongly vary depending on: the location of the Court (outcome tends to be more rapid in small rural courts) ; if it is a mutual consent divorce or a more disputed type of divorce (the less contentious the divorce the shorter the procedure). Duration will be increased in case of appeal.
In urgent situations (domestic violence, custody involving transnational issues), the Judge can order provisional measures to protect the oppressed spouse or the children within about one month.