Know what to do if your ex-partner does not pay the financial contribution set by the judge

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.

Verified by Maître Elodie Ramos on 30/05/2022

A financial contribution may be decided by the judge in two situations:

If your spouse and/or other parent does not pay you the financial contribution set by the judge or in the context of an agreement signed with an authorised legal witness known as a notary or “notaire”, there are solutions. These will primarily depend on the country of residence of the person who owes you money, known as the “débiteur”.

Débiteur” in France

If the “débiteur” lives in France, you have several solutions to recover unpaid sums.

If you have children, it is recommended to go through the fast-track process offered by the  family allowance funds, either the “Caisse d’allocations familiales (Caf)” or the “Mutualité Sociale Agricole (MSA)”.

Whatever process you choose, the “débiteur” may dispute it by lodging an appeal. However, they will still be obliged to pay you the sums you claim until the judge makes a decision.

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

  • What is involved?

    You may request the family allowance fund that you belong to, either the “Caisse d’allocations familiales (Caf)” or the “Mutualité Sociale Agricole (MSA)”, to collect the unpaid sums via the recovery agency called the “Agence de recouvrement et d’intermédiation des pensions alimentaires (Aripa)”.

    This procedure, known as “recouvrement”, or recovery, can be used as soon as a payment has not been made, and for unpaid amounts dating back a maximum of two years.

    Depending on your situation, they may decide to:

    • pay you a financial support known as a family support allowance or “allocation de soutien familial”, under certain conditions
    • collect the unpaid amounts directly from the other parent each month. This procedure is called “intermédiation

    Is it fast?

    Yes, the recovery or “recouvrement” process is generally quite fast, taking about a few weeks.

    In some cases, the “Caf” or “MSA” may decide to advance the unpaid amounts to you even before they receive the payment from your “débiteur”.

    Is there a cost?

    No, this process is free of charge.

    What steps should be taken?

    You have to make the request directly with the “Caf” or “MSA”:

    • Lodge an application online (“Caf” only) or send an application form by post. You can find the contact details for the Caf and MSA on their websites.
    • Attach a copy of the official court document allocating you the financial contribution to your application, known as the “contribution à l’entretien et à l’éducation des enfants”.
    • If you send it by post, send the letter by registered post with recorded delivery or “lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception”. This is the only way to have proof of receipt. Keep the receipt as proof of postage

    What’s next?

    Application processing times vary significantly from department to department. You can contact your “Caf” or “MSA” if you do not receive a response after one month.

  • What is involved?

    The procedure known as “paiement direct” makes it possible to obtain payment of the financial contribution straight from the employer or the bank of the person who owes you money “débiteur”. These entities are known as a third party or a “tiers”.

    You can make use of this from the first day of late payment and for unpaid amounts dating back up to six months.

    Is it fast?

    This process can be quick if the “tiers” pays quickly. In this case, you may receive the unpaid amounts in one month.

    Unfortunately, the payment may take up to several months depending on the “tiers” involved.

    Is there a cost?

    Yes, but your “débiteur” will have to cover these costs. You will not have to pay anything.

    What steps should be taken?

    You must call on a justice system officer known as a “huissier de justice”. You can find one near you in this directory.

    You will need to provide them with:

    • the official court document allocating you a financial contribution
    • your bank account certificate, or “relevé d’identité bancaire (RIB)
    • a document in which you have noted the unpaid amounts. You will need to certify that it is accurate and sign it. To do this, you can use a sworn statement, for example. Please note: in the event of incorrect calculation of the sums claimed, you, as the applicant, may be held legally liable

    The “huissier” will ask you for information about your “débiteur”, such as their full name and date of birth, their address, their employer and even their social security number for the state health insurance system, known as a “numéro de sécurité sociale”. If you do not have all this information, they may contact relevant institutions to find out this information.

    What’s next?

    The “huissier” will have eight days to send a direct payment request to the “tiers”. The “tiers” will have eight days to respond to the request and indicate whether it is able to pay the sums claimed.

    If they can pay, the “tiers” will pay the sums directly into your bank account. The payment term may vary dramatically from one “tiers” to another.

  • What is involved?

    The “saisie sur compte bancaire” procedure consists of recovering the unpaid sums straight from your “débiteur’s” bank account.

    The “saisie-vente” procedure consists of having the assets of the “débiteur” seized. They will then be sold to pay you the unpaid sums.

    Is it fast?

    The time it takes for you to receive payment will depend on the solvability of your “débiteur”. If the amount due to you is seized on the first seizure attempt, you should receive the amounts within three months.

    Unfortunately, it may take much longer if the “débiteur” is not solvable.

    Is there a cost?

    You will have to pay for the services of the “huissier” yourself, which is why these procedures are generally not recommended. You will also need to repeat the “saisie” procedure every month if no payment is made. However, the fees may be covered if you have legal aid or “aide juridictionnelle”.

    What steps should be taken?

    You must call on a justice system officer known as a “huissier de justice”. You can find one near you in this directory.

    You will need to provide them with:

    • the official court document allocating you a financial contribution
    • your bank account certificate, or “relevé d’identité bancaire (RIB)
    • a document in which you have noted the unpaid amounts. You will need to certify that it is accurate and sign it. To do this, you can use a sworn statement, for example. Please note: in the event of incorrect calculation of the sums claimed, you, as the applicant, may be held legally liable

    What’s next?

    As part of a “saisie sur compte bancaire”, the “huissier” will send the payment request, known as the “acte de saisie”, straight to the bank of your “débiteur”.

    • The “huissier” will inform your “débiteur” within eight days.
    • Their bank account will be blocked for a maximum of 15 working days, during which time the bank will determine the amounts that can be seized and then unblock access to the bank accounts

    As part of a “saisie-vente”, the “huissier” will ask your “débiteur” to pay the sums due by sending them a document asking them to pay, known as an order to pay or “commandement de payer”.

    • They will have eight days to make the payment.
    • If payment has not been made within this period, the “huissier” will proceed with seizure of property. The property seized may be anything of value, with the exception of goods necessary for the life and work of the “débiteur” and their family.
  • What is involved?

    The procedure known as “saisie sur salaire” involves recovering the unpaid amounts from the salary of your “débiteur”.

    Is it fast?

    On average, this procedure takes a lot longer because:

    • it involves legal proceedings before the family court judge, or “Juge aux affaires familiales
    • the payment times vary considerably depending on the employer involved in the procedure.

    On average, it takes between 6 and 18 months to recover the unpaid amounts.

    Is there a cost?

    Yes, but your “débiteur” will have to cover these costs. You will not have to pay anything.

    What steps should be taken?

    You must first request authorisation from the family judge known as the “Juge aux affaires familiales (JAF)” via 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.

    Once authorised by the judge, you must hire a justice system officer or “huissier de justice” who will seize the sums to be paid to you directly from their salary. You can find one near you in this directory.

    You will need to provide them with:

    • the official court document allocating you a financial contribution
    • your bank account certificate, or “relevé d’identité bancaire (RIB)
    • a document in which you have noted the unpaid amounts. You will need to certify that it is accurate and sign it. To do this, you can use a sworn statement, for example. Please note: in the event of incorrect calculation of the sums claimed, you, as the applicant, may be held legally liable.

    What’s next?

    The “huissier” will contact the employer of your “débiteur” to implement the “saisie sur salaire” procedure, within the limits set by law.

  • What is involved?

    If you have tried any of the previous procedures and it has not been successful, you can ask the French Public Treasury known as the “Trésor public” to recover the unpaid sums.

    Note: if you initiate this procedure, known as “recouvrement” with the “Trésor public”, you will no longer be able to take any further action to recover these unpaid amounts. It should therefore be used as a last resort.

    Is it fast?

    This process may take several weeks or even months depending on the length of time the public court has to process your case.

    Is there a cost?

    No, this process is free of charge. The “débiteur” must pay fees of 10% of the sums taken.

    What steps should be taken?

    You must send your request by post to the public prosecutor known as the “procureur de la République”.

    • You can find their details in this directory by entering your postcode and selecting the “tribunal judiciaire”.
    • Send the letter by registered post with recorded delivery or “lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception”. This is the only way to prove your letter has been received. Keep the receipt as proof of postage.

    Your file must include the following documents:

    • the official court document allocating you a financial contribution
    • a document proving that one of the other payment request processes detailed above has not been successful
    • all possible information about your “débiteur”: full name, address, employer, social security number or “numéro de sécurité sociale”, bank, list of assets and income, etc.
    • a signed application letter including the amount of the set financial contribution and the total amount of sums unpaid.

    What’s next?

    The “procureur de la République” will draw up a document called an executive deed or “état exécutoire” which it will send to the relevant department of the state to carry out the recovery.

Débiteur” abroad

If the “débiteur” lives abroad, the process to follow will depend on the country in which they are located.

You will be supported in the procedure either by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs or by the French Ministry of Justice.

We explain the general rules that determine which one will support you, but you may be redirected to another office depending on the specific details of you situation.

  • You can get help preparing your case from 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.

    If it was a French judge that set the financial contribution, your file must include:

    • a letter explaining your situation: the financial contribution that has been set by the judge and the amounts that are unpaid
    • a copy certified by the court’s administrative office known as the “greffe” who set the financial contribution, for example a divorce judgement
    • the originals issued by the “greffe” of the documents known as “certificat de non appel” and “certificat de non pourvoi en cassation” (certificate of non-appeal and certificate of non-appeal in cassation)
    • a copy certified by a justice system officer known as a “huissier de justice” of the court summons and the services of relevant judgments
    • your bank account certificate or “relevé d’identité bancaire (RIB)”.

    If it was a judge overseas that set the financial contribution, your application must include:

    • a letter explaining your situation: the financial contribution that has been set by the judge and the amounts that are unpaid
    • the original document detailing the judgement made overseas
    • an original of the notification and service of the judgement, or any deed in place of this
    • a certificate from the competent court stating that there is no opposition through any type of appeal, including supreme or high court appeal
    • your bank account certificate or “relevé d’identité bancaire (RIB)”.

    Please note: any document that is not in French must be accompanied by a translation by a sworn translator known as a “traducteur assermenté”.

  • First check whether the country in which your “débiteur” is located is a member state of the European Union, a New York convention signatory country or a Hague convention signatory country.

    How do I apply?

    If the country where your “débiteur” lives is on one of these lists, you must send your application (see list of necessary documents above) to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs by post to the following address:

    Ministère des Affaires étrangères
    Sous-direction de la protection des droits des personnes / Recouvrement des Créances Alimentaires (RCA)
    27 rue de la Convention
    CS 91533
    75732 Paris Cedex 15

    Send your application by registered post with recorded delivery or “lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception”. This is the only way to prove your letter has been received. Keep the receipt as proof of postage.

    If you have any questions about your case, you can contact the Ministry by phone on +331 43 17 90 01.

    Is there a cost?

    Application is free of charge.

    If legal proceedings need to be initiated, you may need to hire a lawyer abroad. If your resources are too limited to pay for the services, you could request financial assistance depending on the country concerned. The Ministry will be able to help you with this.

    What’s next?

    The Ministry will attempt to obtain payment of the unpaid sums without going to court. This is referred to as an amical proceedure or “procédure amiable”.

    If this procedure is not successful, a legal procedure will be initiated.

  • How do I apply?

    You must send your application (see the list of necessary documents above) to the French Ministry of Justice by post to the following address:

    Ministère de la Justice
    Bureau de l’Union et du droit international privé (BDIP)
    13 Place Vendôme
    75042 Paris Cedex 01

    Send the letter by registered post with recorded delivery or “lettre recommandée avec accusé de réception”. This is the only way to prove your letter has been received. Keep the receipt as proof of postage.

    You can also contact them by phone on +331 44 77 61 05 and by email at [email protected].

    Is there a cost?

    Application is free of charge.

    If a legal procedure needs to be initiated, you may need to hire a lawyer abroad. If your resources are too limited to pay for the services, you could request financial assistance depending on the country concerned. The Ministry will be able to help you with this.

    Is it fast?

    Time frames vary greatly depending on the situation. It may take several months to several years before the unpaid amounts are received.

    What’s next?

    Application processing times vary greatly. The Ministry will contact you to explain the procedure to be followed and the documents to be provided.

    If you do not receive a response within one month, you can contact them by phone or email to find out how your case is progressing.

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.
  • Femmes Informations Juridiques Internationales Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (FIJI)” is an organization specializing in international family law.

    • This service is free.
    • Their team of lawyers will be able to answer your questions and provide you with advice concerning your separation, divorce and/or child custody matters. This is an information service only: they cannot represent you in legal proceedings, you will have to contact a lawyer for this.
    • Languages available: French, English.
    • Contact: by e-mail at [email protected] or by telephone on 04 78 03 33 63 from Monday to Wednesday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
  • 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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