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Enforcement of English and French Maintenance Orders

Child maintenance where the non-resident parent lives in France

If you have divorced or separated in France, it is likely that the issue of child maintenance was also dealt with by the French Tribunal. If you are a party to a sealed Court Order dealing with child maintenance made in France and you or your ex-partner subsequently moves to England & Wales, this does not negate the terms of the Order. If your ex-partner ceases to make payment of child maintenance, there are steps which can be taken to enforce the Order within England & Wales.

Enforcing an Order made in France (or other EU country) pre and post Brexit

Before Brexit, this was typically a fairly straightforward process pursuant to the Council Regulation (EC) No. 4/2009, also known as the ‘EU Maintenance Regulation’. This allowed the receiving party to seek the usual remedies for enforcement, as if the Order was made in England & Wales. The EU Maintenance Regulation will continue to apply to proceedings and applications made before Brexit finally took effect on 31 December 2020.

However, since Brexit on 31 December 2020, the EU Maintenance Regulation will no longer apply to the UK and therefore any new cases and applications made after that date. Instead, jurisdiction to deal with maintenance will be decided by reference to national law unless an agreement can be reached with the EU (with the consent of the other member states) on similar terms as the current EU Maintenance Regulation.

In preparation, the UK Parliament legislated in December 2020 (before Brexit took effect) to give domestic effect to the ‘2007 Hague Convention on the International recovery of child support and other forms of family maintenance’. This provides rules for the international recognition and recovery of child support and family maintenance. This convention could be utilised so that an Order made by an EU Member State such as France is recognised and enforced in the English courts.

Enforcing an English maintenance Order in France

As noted above, so long as the Order was made prior to Brexit taking effect, the EU Maintenance Regulation can still be utilised to enforce an English Order in France.

A technicality existing prior to Brexit does mean an additional document known as a ‘certificate of enforceability’ does need to be obtained from the English court and you may need to have the Order apostilled or legalized before it will be recognized by the French Tribunal.

For any Order made after 31 December 2020, subject to the above technicalities/formalities, you are likely to need specialist advice from a French family lawyer. You should also seek advice from the ‘REMO’ (Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders) Unit. The benefit of the latter option is that the REMO Unit may be able to retrieve information which is difficult to find, such as locating debtors or investigating their income. Even if an order is capable of enforcement, there are other issues such as interest on late payments and costs orders, which are likely to differ from country to country and these are important factors to consider when weighing up the potential risk/reward of commencing enforcement proceedings.

If you seek to enforce an Order where the other parent lives abroad, the first step is to find out where the Central Authority is in the country where you live.  You can find further information on the REMO Unit and how we can help you with this here.

At Rayden Solicitors, we have particular expertise in dealing with REMO applications and we can guide you through the process. We have experience in enforcing foreign maintenance orders in England and also defending clients from such claims. If you are unsure of the answers to the above questions, we have extensive contacts with private investigators who can assist in locating the non-resident parent and/or their assets.

REMO cases are often complex and can involve substantial delays before the matter is brought to the attention of the court. Due to the complex issues which these cases often involve, if you seek to enforce a foreign maintenance order or if you are faced with a REMO application, you should strongly consider taking legal advice from an international divorce lawyer with expertise in international and expat family law at the earliest opportunity.

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