Anglo French Family Law

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Anglo French Family Law

If you are a French national living in England, or an expat living in France and you are considering divorce, separation or marriage, you should take advice from a specialist family law solicitor who has experience of family law cases with a French element. French speaking solicitor Claire Wood offers an expert Anglo French family law service; she has over 10 years’ experience in cases involving French nationals, and has acted in many cross border cases involving France, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Claire has strong relationships with foreign lawyers and can refer you to a French lawyer when needed.

Please click on the links below for further information about this specialist service:

Anglo French divorce

We offer an expert Anglo French family law service giving you cost effective advice on the choices available to you. Claire Wood has many years of experience in cases involving French nationals and English couples living in France or a French speaking country.

If you are a French national living in England or an English national living abroad, you may have a choice of where to start a divorce process. It is crucial that you obtain quick and early advice so that you can decide which jurisdiction will be best for you.

There are substantial differences between the French and English courts in terms of financial outcome on divorce and the court process. Due to European Regulations, the ability to start a divorce process is based on habitual residence or joint nationality/domicile. The effect of this Regulation is that you may have a choice of jurisdiction within Europe where the courts of two countries could potentially hear the divorce and associated financial aspects. The way the European Regulation works means that the first court seised of the divorce, i.e. when proceedings are issued, will deal with the proceedings. This gives rise to a “race to court” or “Eurostar divorce” where one or both parties are under pressure to secure their preferred court. We can give you advice about the best jurisdiction for you and we can act quickly to secure your interests.

Prenuptial agreements and Marriage contracts

French nationals regularly consult us about the protective agreements available to them (and family members) in England. Prospective clients are often surprised and alarmed to understand that their French marriage contract is not automatically enforceable or relevant in England, in the event of a divorce here.

There are significant differences between a prenup and a marriage contract (contrat de mariage) and the legal systems of France and England have a very different approach to pre marital agreements. We will work in collaboration with French lawyers to ensure your position is protected, when necessary, in both countries. If one (or both) of the couple is a French national, or they have assets in France, a cross border agreement may be necessary to ensure the agreement is relevant in both England and France in the event of a divorce.

What are the main differences between an English prenup and a French marriage contract?

An English prenuptial agreement A French marriage contract
Is intended to deal with financial provision in the event of a divorce, usually that provision is less than the court would order in the absence of a prenup The agreement will make a choice of matrimonial property regime (e.g. separation de biens) which will apply during the marriage and on divorce
Is a bespoke contract between the parties which can make capital provision dealing with the division of property on divorce and set out spousal maintenance obligations Will usually deal with death and insolvency as well as the matrimonial property regime which would apply on divorce. A strictly French contract cannot deal with maintenance obligations
Each party should obtain independent legal advice on the rights and obligations that are being altered by the agreement. There is no need to register the agreement; the parties’ solicitors will retain the signed agreement Is drafted by a notary for a standard fee. The notary can advise both parties. The marriage contract will be sent to the Mairie before the civil wedding and noted in the marriage certificate
The agreement is subject to the English Court’s power to review; it will be upheld unless the court considers it unfair to hold the parties to it at the time of divorce The English court may take account of a French marriage contract but, depending on the family circumstances, it is unlikely to hold the parties to its strict consequences
In England, there are no matrimonial regimes and a prenuptial agreement is a bespoke contract which can divide property in all sorts of ways If the parties do not elect of matrimonial property regime, a default matrimonial regime will apply (la communauté réduite aux acquêts)

Which agreement do we need?

If you are living in England, it is likely that you will need an English prenuptial agreement to protect assets in the event of divorce. A simple French marriage contract is unlikely to be upheld to protect assets if the divorce proceeds in England. Clients need to consider the cost of a prenuptial agreement; the agreement is often more expensive to draft than a simple marriage contract and lawyers will need to give detailed advice to each of you about what rights are being given up by signing the agreement.

Relocation of children

On the break-up of an international marriage or relationship, very often one parent wants to move back to their country of origin with the children of the relationship. If the other parent does not consent to the relocation, a court application may become necessary (called a “leave to remove” application- i.e. asking the court for “leave”, meaning permission, to relocate the children). French speaker Claire Wood has a wealth of experience dealing with cases where the proposed relocation is to France, or another French speaking country.

The approach taken in the early stages of this litigation is crucial to a successful outcome. We have a wealth of experience in contesting and pursuing these applications and we will give you clear and strategic advice. We understand the significance emotionally and practically where one parent wishes to relocate and the stakes are high. We have a proven track record of providing clear and strategic advice and successful outcomes for our clients. It is important for you to take advice and we will help you make those legal and practical decisions early on to prepare your case successfully.

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