Know what to do if the other parent does not comply with child custody arrangements

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.

Verified by Maître Elodie Ramos on 31/01/2024

If other parent does not always comply with the child custody arrangements decided by mutual agreement or ruled by the judge on the exercise of parental authority, known as the “modalités d’exercice de l’autorité parentale”, they are breaking the law.

For example, if they do not bring the children back at the agreed time, they are committing an offence known as a “délit de non-présentation d’enfant”.

There are solutions, including in an emergency.

It is strongly recommended that you hire a lawyer. If your resources are too limited to pay for their services, you can apply for legal aid or “aide juridictionnelle” to cover the costs.

In an emergency

If the other parent does not bring the children back on time or goes to pick them up when they shouldn’t and you are worried, you can go to any police station, i.e. a “commissariat de police” or “brigade de gendarmerie”, to file a complaint.

The police can act quickly to help you recover your children.

If you are afraid that the other parent will take your children abroad without your consent, you must act promptly. More information on how to do this is available here.

In the long term

First, try to reach an agreement with the other parent through your lawyer. This is called a conciliation procedure or “procédure de conciliation”.

If this procedure fails, you can lodge a complaint with the police regarding non-compliance with court decisions.

You must then send an official letter to the other parent detailing the breaches of their obligations, known as a formal warning or “mise en demeure”. Your lawyer can help you draft this. Send the letter by registered post with recorded delivery or “lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception”, which is the only way to prove your letter has been received. Be careful keep the proof of postage and a copy of the letter.

If this formal warning or “mise en demeure” is not acted upon, you will need to send a request to the family court judge or “Juge aux affaires familiales (JAF)” via your lawyer. The judge may then decide to modify the measures put in place, for example by restricting their rights to visits and overnight stays.

Find support

In France, there are many services that can support you, give you advice, and assist you with procedures and paperwork. Most of them are free of charge.

  • The centres called “point-justice” bring together various organisations that give you legal advice depending on your situation, and sometimes help you with your administrative procedures.

    • These services are free of charge.
    • These centres have many names: “Maison de Justice et du Droit (MJD)”, “Point d’accès au droit (PAD)”, "Relais d’accès au droit (RAD)”, “Antenne de justice (AJ)” or “France services (FS)”.
    • Languages available: mainly French.
    • You can find a “point-justice” near you :
      • on this online directory.
      • by telephone on 3039 from mainland France and on +33 9 70 82 31 90 from overseas. They will ask you for your postal code and put you in touch with a “point-justice”. Languages available: mainly French.
  • A lawyer's role is to defend your rights before, during and after legal proceedings.

    • Be careful to choose a good lawyer.
    • Lawyers have fees that you will need to pay.
    • If you have limited resources, you could be eligible for state financial assistance to pay these fees. This is called "aide juridictionnelle".
    • If you have not had a lawyer recommended to you by a professional or a person you trust, you can look for one on this directory which lists all the lawyers in France. You can search by languages spoken and legal specialisation.

While the utmost care has gone into providing you with the most accurate and up to date information, this page is not intended to replace legal or professional advice. Laws and procedures change regularly so it is important to consult qualified professionals.

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