Separation, divorce, child custody

Family law in France can seem overwhelming, particularly in cases with international considerations. In this section, we explain how it all works, what you need to do, and how to find a lawyer to support you regardless of your financial situation.

If you want to end your civil marriage in France, you can choose between several types of divorce procedures. It is essential to prepare well in advance and to be assisted by a lawyer specialising in private international law if an element of your marital situation involves another country.

Depending on your nationality, the nationality of your partner, the country where you got married, and the country where you usually live, you may have a choice when it comes to the country where you apply for divorce.

The procedure to get a divorce granted in France recognised abroad varies depending on the country in question. Each country has its own procedure for recognising a foreign divorce judgment. If you were divorced in France, you may need to ask another country to acknowledge the divorce ruling for it to be applicable there.

If you have divorced in a country other than France and you have a birth certificate and/or marriage certificate in France, you will need to have your divorce recorded in France.

If you have divorced abroad and you need to enforce your divorce judgement in France, you will need to take legal action in France to obtain an “exequatur” of the divorce.

In France, the law requires married partners to provide each other with financial and material assistance if necessary. If you are engaged in divorce proceedings, you can request financial contributions from your spouse.

If you are in a French civil partnership or “Pacte civil de solidarité (Pacs)” and you want to end it, the procedure is generally quick. You do not need the agreement of your “Pacs” partner.

Perpetrators deploy common strategies to discredit their victims and often use the legal system to continue their abuse. However, judges, police, media and society are all starting to recognise these manipulative tactics and patterns of behaviour.

In France, in the event of a separation or divorce, both parents continue to have rights and obligations towards their children, known as “autorité parentale”. It is very rare that these rights are withdrawn from a parent, even in cases involving domestic abuse, unfortunately.

Even when separated, parents have to continue to contribute to the costs associated with their children. A judge may ask one parent to pay an amount to the other parent known as a child education and maintenance allowance or “contribution à l’entretien et à l’éducation de l’enfant”, also referred to as “pension alimentaire”.

If you are worried that your partner or ex-partner will take your children abroad or keep them abroad without your consent, you must act quickly. There are solutions to prevent your children from being taken overseas without your consent.

It is completely understandable if you want to return to your home country after experiencing abuse. However, if you want to move overseas with your children, you must obtain the agreement of the other parent or a judge, regardless of the child custody arrangements already in place.

Perpetrators deploy common strategies to discredit their victims and often use the legal system to continue their abuse. However, judges, police, media and society are all starting to recognise these manipulative tactics and patterns of behaviour.

If you do not receive the financial contribution set by the judge as part of your divorce proceedings and/or child custody arrangements, there are solutions to force your spouse and/or other parent to pay it.

If the other parent does not comply with the child custody arrangements put in place, whether the children live with one parent or alternate between both parents, they are breaking the law. There are solutions.

If your ex-partner does not comply with the division of assets decided in your divorce or does not pay you the sum requested by the judge, known as a compensation payment or “prestation compensatoire”, there are solutions.

If the other parent has gone abroad with your children, or is keeping them aboard without your agreement, this constitutes international parental child abduction. There are solutions for bringing your children back to France.


After the violence, I had only one thing in mind: returning to Brazil with my children. I was devastated when I learned that I could not leave without the authorisation of their father, even though he had been convicted of domestic violence. In the meantime, the children live with me and only see their father during supervised visits. But because I can't find a job in my field here, I need to go back to my country. I have just started a new legal procedure to obtain the legal authorisation to move back home with my children.

“Elza” - Brazil - 42 years old

I didn't expect the divorce to be so long and complex - in my country it's much faster! It was many, many years before the divorce was granted. My ex used the French legal system to keep hurting me. He did everything to slow things down. He made false accusations against me and because he is French and very respected, he even managed to get other people to give false testimonies about me, even though they had never even met me! It was very hard psychologically. Fortunately, I had an excellent lawyer. I also joined an online support group for English-speaking people, they were so supportive.

“Alice” - Canada - 49 years old

Our child was one year old when we separated. Since then, my ex has had to pay me child support every month to help me financially. After a few months, he simply stopped paying. I was very stressed, but I was able to find a solution by contacting the Caf. Now, I receive alimony through Aripa, and I no longer have to worry about unpaid bills. I feel relieved.

“Annelies” - Belgium - 30 years old

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