On The New Quickie French Divorce: A discussion with Marion TD Lewis, Esq.

Below is an excerpt of a chat between our Editor in Chief and one of our associate editors on the subject of the new divorce law in France that allows couples to divorce without a judge:
Divorce Saloon: Good Morning, Can you please introduce yourself? Please tell us your name and your occupation:

Lawyer X: Well, you know who I am. My occupation right now is writer but I’ve practiced divorce law in New York, as you know.

Divorce Saloon: Thanks for speaking with us today, Lawyer X on this topic of the quickie divorce in France. What is this new divorce law in France that everybody is talking about? Is it a brand new legislation or a modification of existing law?

Lawyer X: So yes, the quickie divorce I believe it took effect in January. 2017. And basically it is the new strategy for marital dissolution for couples who are not contesting their divorce. It is an uncontested divorce, you could say. A speedy uncontested divorce.

Divorce Saloon: When does this new law enter into force?

Lawyer X: As I said, it was in January. 2017. The beginning of January. I want to say about the 3rd? I am not exactly sure of the date but it is recent. Still very new and fresh.

Divorce Saloon: Right. For an English speaker, can you explain what a “divorce déjudiciarisée” means? I saw this in my notes and I have no idea what it means.

Lawyer X: Well, my French is as good as yours but I think it means divorce without a judge. It is now possible to divorce without going before a judge in France. It would just be the two people and their lawyers. No judge. No courtroom. Things like that.

Divorce Saloon: So, is this really like a mediation? Do the lawyers act like mediators to the parties in the divorce? Or is this different from a mediation? Please explain.

Lawyer X: I am not sure if “mediation” is the right word. In mediation you have this one neutral party hearing the case. In this divorce in France, the lawyers are not per  se “neutral”. They advocate for their client and they are on the side of their client. But in a way, it does have a mediation feel to it because it is not adversarial at all and the parties agree on everything and so the presence of the lawyers is really more sort of ceremonial. At least, this is how I interpret it.

Divorce Saloon: What is the role of the notary in this action? Does the notary replace the judge? Can the notary order the spouses to do or not to do something, for example?

Lawyer X: Well, my understanding is that notaries under French law are not the same as notaries under our system. That is the first point. These individuals play a very serious role in the French system and they have to be certified and pass exams etcetera in order to be a “notaire.” With that said, I don’t think it is accurate to suggest that a notaire is a replacement for a judge. They most definitely do not and no, I do not think the notaire can order the parties in a divorce to do anything. Their role is more administrative in the sense that they make sure all the documents are in order, and filed legally and things like that.

Divorce Saloon: What types of couples is this new type of divorce recommended for? Can anybody sign up for this new type of divorce procedure in the French Republic? For example, if you have children can you go this route? What about if you have property?

Lawyer X: If I understand the law correctly, only people who have no property and children can use this route. I mean, at a minimum, the disposition of the property and the custody and support of the children would be important issues that would have to be definitively settled (I would imagine a judge would need to be a part of this discourse) and things would have to be in writing and contracted to, before you could say it is now “uncontested” and that therefore this quickie formula can be employed.
Divorce Saloon: Can the parties use the same lawyer since this is an uncontested divorce with no outstanding issues?

Lawyer X: According to my understanding, no.  The parties could not use the same lawyer for a quickie French divorce. They both need to have their own lawyer.

Divorce Saloon: From beginning to end, how long does this type of divorce procedure typically take? Is it true it only takes 15 days??

Lawyer X: This is a myth, I think. I believe what I read is that a 15 day cooling off period is imposed initially after the first filing but after that, it would be at least another month or so before all the paperwork is properly attended to by the notaire.

Divorce Saloon: What about children? If the couple has children, does this change anything – even assuming they agree on everything? For example, who gets custody? What if the child prefers to live with one parent over the other? How is that handled?

Lawyer X: This is interesting because I think I read that the child has a right to submit an affidavit of sorts to indicate their preferences as far as custodial arrangements and things like that. It is required that children of a certain age are given the right to submit this affidavit. The system is very concerned with honoring the preferences of the children in a divorce scenario.

Divorce Saloon: After the parties sign the agreement does it have to be entered at the court or is the notaire’s signature enough to dissolve the marriage?

Lawyer X: That is a good question. I would imagine that this document would somehow have to be entered into the court’s records. Or at a minimum the civil records.
Divorce Saloon: Typically how much would a client pay for a divorce of this nature?

Lawyer X: I imagine it would vary depending on the lawyer and depending on the situation. There are statutory fees that are involved as well as lawyers’ fees.