The do’s and don’ts of getting a divorce in France (from someone who’s done it)

The do's and don'ts of getting a divorce in France (from someone who's done it)
Photo: s2uphoto/ Getting a divorce in France can be difficult emotionally, but that's just the start of your troubles, writes Carys M Evans.
Fear not, this isn't yet another article about Brexit, messy as that looks likely to be. No, let's talk about a rocky relationship on a more personal level, when the European dream of marriage, children and happy-ever-after in la belle France ends in a Eurosceptic-worthy divorce. 
So what are the “I do's” and the “I don'ts” that will help you avoid the pitfalls of divorce “à la française”? Read on:
I do …
… check under what statutory regime I am married. You may have got married in the UK (and therefore under the separation of property system) but, as you'll be far too busy singing La Vie en Rose and dreaming of shopping in Le Bonpoint to notice, after living for three years in France, you'll automatically come under the French community of property system.
And no, they don't send you a letter in case you missed this finer point of the law. This means that, once you're married, unless you've drawn up a contract, it's that good old French notion of solidarity and community that applies …. And waving a British marriage certificate at the family affairs judge won't get you your money back.
Photo: s2uphoto/Depositphotos
I don't …
… throw my clout until my divorce is out. Now incredible as this may seem, adultery applies until the day your divorce is pronounced by the judge. This means that, even if you've been separated for years, in the eyes of the law you're required to remain faithful to your estranged wife or husband. Strange, as adultery during the marriage seems to raise no eyebrows… time to channel your inner Abbé Pierre or Joan of Arc.
I do …
… think carefully about where I want my children to grow up. Children often find themselves in the middle of a nasty custody battle … especially if you want to take the children out of the country and “back home”. Just remember that “Made in France” is all the rage at the moment … and even the judges have signed up for it.
Photo: belchonock/Depositphotos
I don't …
… “desert the marital home”. Another one, up there with adultery, that can make you vulnerable to the dreaded divorce for “fault”. Remember that friends tend to stay with the half of the couple that didn't move out into a squalid flat after the separation … so best stay put.
I do …
…start saving for the divorce as soon as that wedding band is firmly ensconced on my ring finger. Heard of the expression “kick you when you're down”? Then get ready to hand over most of your savings to cover divorce taxes, stamp duties, solicitor and lawyer fees … not forgetting all those psychologist and caviste bills.
I don't …
… criticise the French or anything French-related for the entire duration of my marriage. Any negative remarks touching on anything from the French education system to the price and quality of a cup of tea will be mentally recorded and used against you in the divorce court.
Photo: bacho123456/Depositphotos
I do …
… avoid trying to get divorced in December, February, April, May, June, July and August. Basically, you have a divorce window between September and November, and at a push January and March. At all other times the lawyer or the judge will be on holiday. You may be able to talk to an assistant or stagiaire though, and while they wield no power whatsoever, being less jaded, they may actually show a little bit of concern.
I don't …
…depend on the police or the gendarmerie to help me with my domestic affairs – you are just the hysterical foreigner who doesn't understand the local customs. For extreme cases only but you can't say I didn't warn you.
I do …
… still say ‘I do' to the French. Because Paris is the city of love and romance, because they have a kiss named after them, because guests get to buy two outfits to go to a French wedding and because love still has the power to transcend borders … at a time when so much effort is being put into putting them back up all around us.
Divorcing in France is the subject of “French for Divorce: Game on/Faites vos jeux” by Carys M. Evans, a satirical novel based in France and inspired the author's own expat experience of a mixed marriage and of living… or rather divorcing … abroad. Follow on Facebook here, or find the book on Amazon here

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