As an English speaking French lawyer, I frequently act as a Divorce Lawyer for English speaking clients.
The practice tackles family law issues such as child abduction, child custody, alimony disputes and allocation of former family home.
There are substantial cultural differences between Divorce Law in France and in Common Law countries notably when it comes to payment of compensation for loss of income due to divorce (“prestation compensatoire”) or liquidation of martial assets.
Because I am English speaking French lawyer a major part of my work consists in explaining these differences before assisting clients during divorce litigation.
Payment of compensation (“prestation compensatoire”)
Sums granted by French judges are generally quite low.
In France, this compensation (“prestation compensatoire”) can be paid as a lump sum or as regular instalments, usually for a maximum period of 8 years, exceptionally in the form of life annuity, depending on the needs of the recipient, his age or health status.
There are no statutory calculation rules but practitioners have elaborated methods.
For instance, 20% of the monthly difference in income between spouses multiplied by 12 month and then by 8 years.
Edward and Jillian married in England in 2005 and immediately moved to France because Edward had found a high profile job with the French subsidiary of an international software firm located in Montpellier.
Edward earns 5000 € month. Jillian has had difficulties finding a position in Montpellier because of her bad French. She currently works as an English teacher for 3000 € month.
The couple then decided to divorce in 2015.
Jillian could expect 38.400 € compensation (2000 €*20%)*12 month*8 years
Liquidation of marital assets
Unlike England, property purchased after marriage with funds belonging exclusively to one spouse will remain the separate property of this spouse. Typically, the spouse acquired such funds prior to marriage or after the marriage trough heritage or gift.
When Edward and Jillian decided to move to Montpellier, a villa was purchased in the suburb. It was bought exclusively with money that Edward had inherited from his deceased mother. The property is worth 400.000 €.
Under French law, the villa belongs exclusively to Edward because it was bought with his money alone.
In case of divorce, Jillian’s contributions to their matrimonial life are irrelevant and the villa will remain Edward’s property. She will be entitled to no other compensation for participation to day-to-day marital life.
She might be able to obtain some compensation for improvements she personally made to Edward’s property, but she will have to prove she did it with her own money through bills and bank statements.
In England, the outcome could be quite different. Her non-financial contributions (homemaking, parenting) might be considered as equivalent to financial contributions and taken into account when sharing assets. For instance, the villa in our example could even be transferred to Jillian as compensation.
As an English speaking divorce lawyer in the South of France, I help individuals coming across similar issues.
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For personal queries, you may contact the practice.