How can you prepare child relocation from or within France? What if your child has been relocated without your consent?
France is part of Europe. The judgments of the European Court of Justice apply.
The Council Regulation (EC) No 2019/1111 of 29 June 2019 (Brussels II ter) is valid in France.
France is a member of the Hague Convention on Child Abduction.
Furthermore, France belongs to the Schengen Area, which means that people can travel freely within those countries.
We will explain what this means for your options.
Alexandre Boiché is the director of Alexandre Boiché Avocats in Paris.
He is very experienced in the field of international family law and international child abduction as a lawyer, author and speaker.
He is a fellow of the IAFL and of the Comité Français de droit international privé.
Alexandre has volunteered to keep this page about France up to date.
Lawyers and mediators in France
We provide a list of lawyers and mediators in France who can assist you in drafting an international parenting plan, in preventing conflicts over the primary residence of the children, and in negotiating and litigating over the children in the event of relocation or child abduction.
Parental authority: France
In general both parents share parental responsibility, whether they are married or not.
Both parents share the parental responsibility if they are married or if the child filiation is established with both parents in the year following his/her birth.
In case the parents do not share the joint parental responsibility, the parents can make a joint declaration before the chief clerk of the High Court to share voluntarily share the parental responsibility. Or a parent can ask for a court order to obtain parental responsibility (article 372 of the Civil Code).
After separation parents will in general continue to share parental responsibility.
A residence order does not impact the parental responsibility.
Traveling with children: France
To travel outside of France, the child will need a valid identity card (Schengen Area) or a passport and possibly a visa, depending on the destination.
A parent traveling with the child does not need the consent of the other. A third person traveling with the child will need a consent form by a parent who has parental authority. This consent form does not need to be registered.
Child relocation: France
If a parent wants to move with the children, he or she must inform the other parent before the relocation about whether the relocation will effect the exercise of parental responsibility (the residence and/or visitation schedule). This is based on article 373-2 paragraph 3 of the Civil Code.
If the other parent does not agree, the moving parent shall ask the court for a court order to get permission to relocate the child. This procedure can take a few months. The court will rule according to what the best interest of the child requires.
French case law shows that these are criteria that the judges might take into consideration:
• A continuity in the education of the child
• The existence of links with the new place of residence and those with the current place of residence
• The age of the child
• The capacity of preserving contact with the other parent and the family living in France
• The duration of the stay abroad
• The reasons why the parent wishes to relocate
• The distance between France and the new location
• What the child’s live will be like (a precise description of the new environment and the capacity to provide adequately for the child’s day-to-day needs and wellbeing)
• Whether the court in the new country will enforce and/or acknowledge the French court order without changing it
• The wishes and feelings of the child, depending on the age and maturity of the child (article 388-1 Civil Code)
• The relation with siblings (article 371-4 and 371-5 of the Civil Code).
In order to proof the continuity of the child’s life and the ability to provide for the child’s needs and wellbeing, the moving parent is expected to show proof such as:
• a provisional registration at a school
• a lease for a new home
• an employment contract
If the other parent wants to prevent the move, he can ask the court in to impose a relocation ban.
If a parent fears for child abduction, he can present evidence to the court and obtain an order preventing the child to leave France (‘Interdiction de sortie du territoire’), based on article 373-2-6 of the Civil Code.
In case of emergency, a parent can lodge an opposition against a child’s departure form France with the French police if the child is a French national. This opposition will then be registered at the National Wanted Persons File by the prosecution services. The other parent will not be notified about the opposition, but he or she will not be able to leave the country with the child. This registration of the opposition will last for 15 days. This means you have 15 days to get a court order with a longer duration. This court order will then also be registered at the National Wanted Persons File. If the court order does not mention the duration of the order, a new court order is necessary to end the registration. For the duration of the order, the child cannot leave France without both parents being present. If one parents wants to leave France with the child, an authorisation form signed by the other parent before the police is necessary.
If the child is not a French national, such a court order can be less effective and it may be necessary to demand that the parent deposits his/her passport with his/her lawyer during the time of visitation with the child in order to prevent child abduction.
Child abduction: France
France is a party to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction.
The Central Authority is a first point of contact if you want your children to return. They will forward your request for the children to return to the other parent in order to obtain a voluntary return and to offer mediation. But as soon as no amicable solution seems to emerge without delay, the matter is referred to the judge.
If you don’t know the address where your child is staying in France, the Central Authority can help you to locate your child. They will use the assistance of other organisations to locate your child.
You are not obliged to contact the Central Authority first.
In France child abduction cases are heard by the Family Court. There are specialized jurisdictions. If the proceeding is filed through the French Central Authority, it will be filed by the Public prosecutor (procureur de la République) but the public prosecutor is not the lawyer of the left-behind parent, he/she represents the French state. The parents could take a lawyer or not for the hearing.
The left-behind parent could also file directly with the French court with a French attorney.
The procedure can take more than 12 weeks. There is always a court hearing.
The appeal procedure can take more than 6 months, but enforcement could be obtained before the appeal.
The view of the child can be heard through a personal interview with the judge or by the report prepared for the court by an independent expert. When a child who is capable of discernment requests the court to be heard, this can not be refused.
The court can also appoint a legal representative for the child, if the interests of the child appear to be in contradiction with those of the parents.
Mediation will be promoted and is possible at all stages. In France you can also use an alternative method of dispute resolution: the participatory procedure. This is an extrajudicial negotiation procedure assisted by a lawyer.
When any of the parents or both appeal, any of the parents can ask the court for a suspension of the court’s decision during the appeal. The public prosecutor is responsible for the execution of the court decision.
If you think your child is in France, but you do not know exactly where, the French Central Authority can help you locate your child.
If you fear that your child will be abducted from France to another country, or otherwise disappear from view, various measures can be taken:
- orders preventing the removal of the child
- border alerts
A parent who does not live in France, but who does need a lawyer in the France for the return procedure or other court procedures, may be eligible for subsidized legal assistance, depending on his/her income and assets and depending on the country of residence. The Central Authority can inform you about this.
Criminal law : France
The wrongful removal or retention of a child by one of it’s parents is considered a criminal act, which can be punished with a fine or imprisonment (article 227-5 of the Penal Code).
The sentence is aggravated when the child has been kept for more then 5 days or when the child has been wrongfully retained outside of the French territory (art. 227-9 of the Penal Code).
Relevant websites : France
Permission form to travel with children
Ministry of Justice : www.entraide-civile-internationale.justice.gouv.fr
Subsidized legal aid
Blogs about France
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Relevant case law in France
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