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Last update: 06-08-2007
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Maintenance claims - France

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1. What do the concepts “maintenance” and “maintenance obligation” cover according to the law of France?

The maintenance obligation is the expression of family solidarity. It is an obligation imposed by law to provide material support to certain close relations.

Which persons are required to make “maintenance payments”:

- parents in respect of their children?

Parents are under an obligation to feed and maintain their children.

- children in respect of their parents?

Children must provide maintenance for their father and mother.

- divorced spouses in respect of their former spouse?

Only if the divorce is granted on the grounds of breakdown of the marriage. The spouse who took the initiative in the divorce proceedings is required to make maintenance payments to the respondent.

- Others?
  • Spouses during the marriage, including in the case of a legal separation;
  • All descendants and direct relatives in the ascending line;
  • Sons-in-law and daughters-in-law vis-a-vis their father-in-law and mother-in-law and vice-versa.

In what cases?

Maintenance is awarded according to two elements: the needs of the maintenance creditor and the financial means of the maintenance debtor.

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2. Up to what age can a child benefit from a maintenance allowance?

There are two key periods:

  • As long as the child is under age or has reached the age of majority but not yet attained financial independence, in particular while still studying, the parents must provide for their maintenance and education. This goes beyond a simple maintenance obligation, as it is based on their relationship and is designed to provide the child with the necessary conditions for development and education.
  • Once the maintenance and education obligation has ended, the general arrangements for maintenance obligation apply, subject to proof by the applicant of their needs.

3. In which cases is the law of France applicable?

Since the entry into force in France of the Hague Convention of 2 October 1973 on the law applicable to maintenance obligations, the applicable law is in principle the law of the habitual residence of the maintenance creditor. The creditor can also request application of national common law if the law of his/her residence does not allow him/her to obtain maintenance or the law of the authority applied to if the two aforementioned laws do not allow him/her to obtain maintenance.

The Hague Convention of 24 October 1956 on the law applicable to maintenance obligations towards children is still in force between France and the States which are party to this Convention and which have not ratified the 1973 Hague Convention. This Convention stipulates that the law of the habitual residence of the child determines to what extent and from whom the child can claim maintenance.

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French law can therefore apply:

  • if the maintenance creditor resides in France, or
  • if the maintenance creditor and the maintenance debtor are both French and the maintenance creditor wishes to apply French law, or
  • if the case is referred to a French judge and the law of the residence of the maintenance creditor or the law of the common nationality does not allow him/her to obtain maintenance.

4. If this law is not applicable, which law will the courts of France apply?

If the maintenance creditor and the maintenance debtor are both on French territory:

In principle, if the maintenance debtor and the maintenance creditor both reside in France, French law applies, unless, pursuant to the aforementioned 1973 Hague Convention, the maintenance creditor invokes the law of the common nationality if both parties are foreign. This foreign common law would then apply.

5. Should the applicant apply to a specific organisation, a government department (central or local) or a court to obtain maintenance?

The applicant must apply to the family judge of the court of first instance.

6. Can a request be made on behalf of a relative, a close relation, or a child under age?

The relative who assumes the maintenance of a child, whether or not the child has reached the age of majority, can request a contribution towards his or her maintenance and education.

If the maintenance creditor is under guardianship, the guardian is solely authorised to act on their behalf.

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7. If the applicant plans to bring the case to court, how does he/she know which court has jurisdiction?

The applicant can, at his/her discretion, refer the case to the court of the place where they reside or the court of the domicile of the respondent.

8. Does the applicant have to go through an intermediary to bring the case to court (e.g. a lawyer, specific organisation or government department (central or local) , etc.) ? If not, which procedures?

If the case does not involve divorce proceedings or legal separation, the applicant can bring the case personally before the court by an ordinary letter or by a summons, which requires the intervention of a bailiff. It is not essential to act through a lawyer.

The applicant must submit to the judge all the documents that give evidence of their needs, such as salary statements, a non-taxability declaration, an unemployment certificate or a certificate attesting to a long illness, rent, dependent children, maintenance and education costs, loans, etc.

9. Does the applicant have to pay fees to bring a case to court? If so, how much are they likely to be? If the financial means of the plaintiff are insufficient, can he/sh obtain legal aid to cover the costs of the procedure?

The proceedings are free of charge.

A respondent whose financial means are below a certain threshold that is set by decree, can obtain total or partial legal aid. (cf. “Legal aid - Franceâ€�)

10. What kind of maintenance is likely to be granted by the court? If an allowance is granted how will it be assessed? Can the court’s decision be revised to take account of the changes in the costs of living or family circumstances?

- The kind of maintenance.
  • The maintenance takes the form of a monthly payment:
    • o within the framework of the duty of support between spouses or former spouses divorced on the grounds of breakdown of the marriage or legal separation. However, the payment can also take the form of a lump sum, i.e. a sum of money or the abandonment of goods in kind.
    • o the duty to contribute towards the child’s maintenance and education. However, it can wholly or partially take the form of direct payment of the costs incurred for the child. Finally, it can be provided in the form of a right of use and habitation.
  • The maintenance takes a form of a compensatory payment in all divorce cases, except in the case of divorce on the grounds of breakdown of the marriage.

Either of the spouses can request a compensatory payment. This is a payment intended to offset any disparity that the breakdown of the marriage creates between the spouses. It takes the form of a lump sum that can be paid for up to eight years. The amount of the compensatory payment is set by the divorce ruling. In the event of a divorce by mutual consent, the amount is stipulated in the definitive terms of the divorce drawn up by the spouses and approved by the judge.

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An annuity can exceptionally be paid if this is warranted by the age or health status of the maintenance creditor.

- Assessment of the maintenance.

There are no scales of reference. The amount is assessed on the basis of the maintenance debtor’s resources and the maintenance creditor’s needs

- Indexation

In order to adapt the aid according to changes in the cost of living, the judge can, even of his own motion, rule that the maintenance be index-linked under the terms of a legally stipulated variation clause.

The compensatory payment in the form of an annuity is index-linked as in the case of maintenance.

- Revision of the amount
  • Revision of the amount of the maintenance

In the event of any change in circumstances, the maintenance that has been set can be revised upwards or downwards and even cancelled. Failing an agreement between the parties, the revision is carried out by the judge.

  • Revision of the amount of the compensatory payment

As it is a lump-sum payment, the compensatory payment cannot be revised under the same conditions if it is paid in the form of a lump sum or in the form of an annuity.

The amount of the lump sum cannot be revised. The payment arrangements can be revised only in the event of a significant change in the circumstances of the maintenance debtor. Annuities prior to or subsequent to the law of 30 June 2000 can be revised as regards their amount in the event of a significant change in the circumstances of the parties. In the event of a divorce by mutual consent, the amounts can be revised if the agreement that has been approved includes a revision clause.

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11. How and to whom will the maintenance be paid?

The maintenance and the compensatory payment are paid to their beneficiary as indicated above.

The contribution towards the child’s maintenance and education is paid according to the case by one of the parents to the other or to the person with care

If the child has reached the age of majority, the judge can decide or the parents can agree that all or some of this contribution will be paid to the child.

12. If the maintenance debtor doesn’t pay voluntarily, what action can be taken in order to force him/her to pay?

The maintenance creditor may use the ordinary enforcement procedures, such as attachment of movable or immovable goods, attachment of earnings or attachment of bank assets.

The maintenance creditor may also use the direct payment procedure. This procedure allows the party to obtain by a simple bailiff’s affidavit the direct payment of the maintenance by the maintenance debtor’s employer or by any other person who is indebted towards the latter.

13. Is there an organisation or government department (central or local) which can help me to recover maintenance?

If any of the above enforcement procedures fails, the maintenance creditor has two possibilities:

  • apply to the agency responsible for paying the family allowances, in particular the family allowance funds. These agencies can help recover future maintenance payments and up to two years of back payments;
  • apply to the public prosecutor at the court of first instance of his/her place of residence to institute public recovery proceedings. This will allow them to secure the forced payment of the last six months of unpaid maintenance and a schedule of payments through the Public Treasury.

14. Can they replace the debtor and pay the maintenance themselves or part of the maintenance in his or her place?

The agency responsible for paying family allowances may replace the debtor wholly or partially by paying a family allowance. It will recover these amounts from the maintenance debtor, unless he/she is declared insolvent by the judge.

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If the applicant is in France and the maintenance debtor resides in another country:

15. Can the petitioner obtain the assistance of an organisation or government department (central or local) in France?

The applicant who benefits from a ruling that sets maintenance payment can, if the maintenance debtor is abroad, apply to the following two government departments:

  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This Ministry is responsible for applying the New York Convention of 20 June 1956 on the recovery abroad of maintenance in its capacity as the receiving authority designated by France. This instrument has been signed by 55 countries.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs can also intervene to seek an amicable solution if the maintenance debtor is of French nationality.

  • The Ministry of Justice

This Ministry intervenes for countries which are not bound by the New York Convention and with which there is a mutual assistance convention or an agreement that provides for cooperation between the central authorities (Benin, Province of Quebec, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, the United States, Niger, Senegal, Chad and Togo).

16. If so, what is the name and address of that organisation or government department and how can it be contacted?

  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Service du recouvrement des créances alimentaires entre la Fance et l’Etranger

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244, Boulevard Saint-Germain

75303 PARIS 07 S.P.

Tel. : +33. (1).43. 17. 99. 91

Fax : +33. (1).43. 17. 93. 44

  • The Ministry of Justice

Direction des Affaires Civiles et du Sceau

Bureau de l’entraide civile et commerciale internationale

13 Place Vendôme

75001 PARIS

Tel. : +33. (1).44. 86. 14. 50

Fax : +33. (1).44. 86. 14. 06

If the applicant is in another country and the maintenance creditor resides in France:

17. What kind of assistance can the petitioner receive from this organisation or government department?

Certain mutual assistance conventions are rather restrictive and limit the powers of the central authorities when it comes to seeking the recovery of maintenance by amicable means. However, other instruments, in particular the New York Convention, stipulate that the receiving authority, i.e. the central government, enforces any ruling, any order or any other legal instrument.

Mutatis mutandis, the central French authority must transmit the maintenance creditor’s request to the authority competent to have the decision that sets the maintenance payment recognised and enforced or to obtain the debtors views with a view to seeking an amicable settlement to the dispute.

18. Can the petitioner address directly a request to an organisation or government department in France?

If the applicant is not in France, he/she must apply to the central authority of his/her country which is responsible for applying the conventions mentioned above. He/she cannot directly apply to an agency or a government department in France.

19. If so, what is the name and address of that organisation or government department and how can it be contacted?

Not applicable, see § 18.

20. What kind of assistance can the petitioner receive from this organisation or government department?

Not applicable, see § 18.

Further information

« Maintenance claims - General information | France - General information »

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Last update: 06-08-2007

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. What do the concepts “maintenance” and “maintenance obligation” cover according to the law of France? 1.
Which persons are required to make “maintenance payments”: Which persons are required to make “maintenance payments”:
- parents in respect of their children? - parents in respect of their children?
- children in respect of their parents? - children in respect of their parents?
- divorced spouses in respect of their former spouse? - divorced spouses in respect of their former spouse?
- Others? - Others?
In what cases? In what cases?
2. Up to what age can a child benefit from a maintenance allowance? 2.
3. In which cases is the law of France applicable? 3.
4. If this law is not applicable, which law will the courts of France apply? 4.
5. Should the applicant apply to a specific organisation, a government department (central or local) or a court to obtain maintenance? 5.
6. Can a request be made on behalf of a relative, a close relation, or a child under age? 6.
7. If the applicant plans to bring the case to court, how does he/she know which court has jurisdiction? 7.
8. Does the applicant have to go through an intermediary to bring the case to court (e.g. a lawyer, specific organisation or government department (central or local) , etc.) ? If not, which procedures? 8.
9. Does the applicant have to pay fees to bring a case to court? If so, how much are they likely to be? If the financial means of the plaintiff are insufficient, can he/sh obtain legal aid to cover the costs of the procedure? 9.
10. What kind of maintenance is likely to be granted by the court? If an allowance is granted how will it be assessed? Can the court’s decision be revised to take account of the changes in the costs of living or family circumstances? 10.
11. How and to whom will the maintenance be paid? 11.
12. If the maintenance debtor doesn’t pay voluntarily, what action can be taken in order to force him/her to pay? 12.
13. Is there an organisation or government department (central or local) which can help me to recover maintenance? 13.
14. Can they replace the debtor and pay the maintenance themselves or part of the maintenance in his or her place? 14.
If the applicant is in France and the maintenance debtor resides in another country: If the applicant is in France and the maintenance debtor resides in another country:
15. Can the petitioner obtain the assistance of an organisation or government department (central or local) in France? 15.
16. If so, what is the name and address of that organisation or government department and how can it be contacted? 16.
If the applicant is in another country and the maintenance creditor resides in France: If the applicant is in another country and the maintenance creditor resides in France:
17. What kind of assistance can the petitioner receive from this organisation or government department? 17.
18. Can the petitioner address directly a request to an organisation or government department in France? 18.
19. If so, what is the name and address of that organisation or government department and how can it be contacted? 19.
20. What kind of assistance can the petitioner receive from this organisation or government department? 20.
 
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