Having your foreign divorce recorded on your French civil status documents

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.

Verified by Maître Hansu Yalaz on 09/02/2024

If you are a French national and/or if you have married in France, it is necessary to have the divorce recorded on your civil status documents, i.e.:

  • your birth certificate if you were born or naturalised in France
  • your marriage certificate if you got married in France.

This will allow you to update your marital status with the French authorities.

Preparing your application carefully

It may be useful to get help from a French lawyer to take these steps.

  • If you are a political refugee in France, you must not contact the authorities of your home country.

    Instead, you can contact an organisation offering free services called an “association” specialised in the rights of refugees.

  • The decision of the foreign judge, and any other official document in a foreign language, must be translated by a sworn translator “traducteur assermenté”.

    You can find one:

    • by searching online
    • by requesting a list of “traducteurs assermentés” from the embassy of your country of origin in France
    • by requesting a list of sworn “traducteurs assermentés” from the court of appeals or “cour d’appel” of your place of residence.

    This type of translation costs between €30 and €80 per page, on average.

  • This step only applies to you if you have a French birth certificate because you were born or naturalised in France.

    If this is the case, first check that the French authorities have recorded your foreign marriage before asking them to recognise your divorce. To do this:

    • Contact the authority that holds your birth certificate to receive a full copy of the birth certificate or “copie intégrale de l’acte de naissance” and check that your marriage has been recorded there. Who to contact:
      • If you were born in France, the town hall of the town or city where you were born.
      • If you have been naturalised in France, the specialist department of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs called “Service Central d’Etat Civil”, located in Nantes. You can apply for it online on this website.

    If your marriage has not been recorded on your birth certificate, you will also need to provide a copy of your marriage certificate with a translation of it in your file.

  • There is a principle of free movement of judgements within the European Union, which means that a divorce decision granted in one Member State will be recognised by the other Member States.

    Your lawyer must ask the court that granted your divorce for a document known as a European certificate or “certificat européen”.

  • The procedure will depend on the country where you divorced, with some countries having signed bilateral or international conventions.

    Your lawyer will first need to check certain elements, including that:

    • the foreign judge was competent
    • the foreign law complies with French law
    • the judgement was not obtained fraudulently.

    Once these aspects are verified:

    • If the country where you divorced is a signatory to the Hague Convention, you must request an official stamp called an “apostille” to authenticate your divorce documents. It is advisable to seek the assistance of a lawyer in the country concerned.
    • If the country where you divorced has not signed an agreement with France, you must have your documents authenticated with the help of a lawyer in the country concerned.

How to proceed

The procedure for having a divorce granted by a foreign judge recorded in France depends on the country where you divorced.

In some cases, you will have to initiate a verification procedure called a “vérification d’opposabilité” with the public prosecutor known as the “procureur de la République”. This procedure will allow them to check that your divorce complies with the rules of French private international law and that it can therefore be recognised in France.

  • You must request a “vérification d’opposabilité” if:

    • you divorced in a country outside the European Union
    • you divorced in Denmark
    • the divorce proceedings were initiated before 1 March 2001 and you divorced in one of these countries: Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, or United Kingdom
    • the divorce proceedings were initiated before 1 May 2004 and you divorced in one of these countries: Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, or Slovenia
    • the divorce proceedings were initiated before 1 January 2007 and you divorced in Romania or Bulgaria.
  • In this case, a lawyer in France will need to send a request for recognition of the foreign divorce decision directly to the public prosecutor known as the “procureur de la République”.

    The “procureur de la République” will check that your divorce complies with French law, i.e. that it complies with public order referred to as being “conforme à l’ordre public”.

  • In this case, you will need to send your “vérification d’opposabilité” request to the public prosecutor known as the “procureur de la République” which depends on the administrative body that celebrated and recorded your marriage in France. To find their contact details, search this directory by entering your postcode and selecting the “tribunal judiciaire”. If your marriage ceremony took place abroad, contact the Nantes “tribunal judiciaire”.

    The request must include the following documents: 

    • a full copy of the divorce decision (original or certified copy)
    • official proof of the finality of the decision, such as a certificate of non-appeal, a certificate drawn up by your lawyer or another authority, an act of acquittal, or any other foreign act mentioning the decision
    • proof of the nationality of the persons concerned
    • a document dated at the moment you make the request that proves your place of residence, known as “justificatif de domicile”, for you and your ex-spouse
    • a full copy of your birth and marriage certificates
    • translations of all your official foreign-language documents by a sworn translator called a “traducteur assermenté” (see above).
  • If the public prosecutor known as the “procureur de la République” considers that the foreign decision respects the rules of the French private international laws, it will send a letter directly to the authorities who have your birth and/or marriage certificates so that they can record the divorce note, i.e.:

    • the town hall of the town or city where you were born if you were born in France
    • the town hall of the town or city where you got married if the wedding ceremony was held in France
    • the specialist department of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the “Service Central d’Etat Civil”, located in Nantes, if you have been naturalised in France.

    This may take several weeks. You will be informed by the relevant authority once it has recorded the divorce.

    If you do not hear anything after two months, you can contact them 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 d'Information sur les Droits des Femmes et des Familles (CIDFF)” helps the general public, especially women, in many areas such as: legal rights, health, employment searches, training, business creation, and even childcare.

    • These services are free of charge.
    • They will be able to inform you of your rights and the steps to take. Some centres can assist you with procedures and paperwork.
    • Languages available: mainly French.
    • Contact: you will find the contact details of the “CIDFF” in your area in this directory.
  • 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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