Comparison Between US Law and French Law

Based on my exposure to California’s and France’s family law court system, I have realized there are some differences between domestic and international legal systems.

In France, divorce can be pronounced for 4 main reasons. Similar to California, parties can agree on the divorce and all consequences. This is known in France as “divorce with mutual consent,” which corresponds to an uncontested divorce in California. Alternatively, in France, they have what is referred to as “consent to divorce but not to the consequences”. This type of divorce occurs when both parties accept the idea of the divorce, yet disagree on the consequences, and is equivalent to a contested divorce in California.

In the French system, it is possible to divorce when the marital relationship is over. It means that spouses do not live together anymore, for a minimum duration of two years. Such divorce is called, “divorce for definitive change of conjugal tie”. In California, all parties must wait 6 months once they file for divorce before a judgment can be entered. This mediation process is referred to as the “cooling off period.”

In France, contested divorce is very common. Many divorces are based on the fault of one spouse. The case law in France regarding this type of issue varies greatly: in some judgments, for example, adultery is not considered a fault. This law is significantly different from the United States’ laws, in particular with California, which is a no-fault state. Adultery plays no part in the terms of a divorce.

In California, one spouse can unilaterally decide to end the marriage; it is not necessary to have the consent of the other party. In contrast, France’s divorce law does not work that way. Unless you ask for divorce based on fault, the person at fault does not need to consent. In most other situations, you cannot divorce without the other’s permission.

Another important difference between California and French law is the existence of summary dissolution, whereas in France it does not exist and divorce can take a very long time even when it comes to mutual consent divorce.