Divorce before the judge: procedure

Verified 30 September 2021 - Directorate for Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister)

Can't you have an amicable divorce? In that case, you have to hire a lawyer who brings the matter before the family court judge. You can obtain interim measures to organize your separation before the divorce is pronounced and especially for children. The length of this procedure depends on the time you take to exchange your requests and arguments. You are permanently divorced when the mention of divorce appears on the margin of your civil status documents.

Step-by-step approach

You must get a lawyer to divorce you.

Who shall I contact

You must sign a fee agreement with your lawyer to to fix his fees.

If you don't have enough resources, you can legal aid to cover all or part of the costs of the procedure (lawyer, commissioner of justice (former bailiff and judicial auctioneer)...).

The choice of the lawyer who pleads for you is totally free.

However, your lawyer cannot represent you throughout the country.

If the lawyer you are handling your case is not within the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal of the court seised, he must take a applicant lawyer. The applicant lawyer shall carry out the procedural documents (for example, he shall lodge the form of order).

Your lawyer must seize the family affairs judge of the court of justice.

The family judge is seised by a subpoena in divorce of a spouse or by a request spouse of the spouses.

The court with territorial jurisdiction is as follows:

  • This is the judge of the family's residence.
  • If the parents live separately, this is the judge of the residence of the parent with whom the minor children reside.
  • In other cases, it is the judge of the place of residence of the person who has not initiated the proceedings.

In the case of a joint application, the competent court shall, depending on the choice of the parties, be that of the place where either of them resides.

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Divorce Summons

Your lawyer drafts the divorce summons in consultation with you. It is then transmitted by a justice commissioner to the other spouse.

The assignment is your conclusions, i.e. your requests and your arguments.

It must indicate the type of divorce requested:

If you wish to request a fault divorce, you do not need to specify this in the assignment.

The assignment can contain your requests for interim measures, i.e. what you want as a temporary organization for your property and children during the divorce proceedings.

Provisional measures may concern the spouses :

  • Allocation of family accommodation and household furniture
  • Clothing and personal effects delivery
  • Fixing of maintenance under the duty of care
  • Organization of the spouses' assumption of their debts and management of their property
  • Appointment of an expert for the liquidation their wealth and finances

Provisional measures may concern children :

Your assignment must include the following mandatory information:

Joint Query

The joint application is drafted by your lawyer and your spouse's lawyer.

It can be used when you and your spouse agree to go to court together for your divorce. A commissioner of justice does not intervene to transmit this request, which is simply filed by a lawyer.

You can go to the judge together even if you have points of disagreement. Your application may also contain all your agreements, including if you agree on all the consequences of divorce.

Please note

if you request interim measures, you may request them in subsequent submissions, i.e. what you want as a temporary arrangement for your property and children during the divorce proceedings.

The hearing takes place in court. Its purpose is to guide the case and to define a timetable for the procedure.

Orient Folder

The orientation hearing may:

  • Declare that the spouses agree to a participatory procedure
  • Either refer your case to the reconditioning by providing a schedule with dates for the progress of your file
  • Either refer your case to a hearing

Provisional measures

This hearing allows interim measures to be taken with respect to you and your children.

You can attend the hearing with your lawyer or ask your lawyer to represent you.

You may not request interim measures.

Please note

you still have the option of requesting interim measures for the first time later in the procedure.

After the orientation hearing, the case enters a phase of the procedure called reconditioning. With the agreement of the Parties, pre-build may be replaced by a participatory procedure.

If the defendant spouse has not retained counsel and the plaintiff has not applied for interim measures, there is no pre-trial or participatory procedure. The divorce case is heard directly in a hearing.

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The spouses have to prepare their file. That's what we call the reconditioning.

Their lawyers set out their clients' arguments in a written document called conclusions. In those pleadings, the spouses set out their claims and arguments (referred to as means), accompanied by supporting documents.

All exhibits and conclusions are electronically communicated by lawyers to graft of the court at a pre-trial hearing. This hearing is taking place virtually. The spouses do not have to be present.

A judge, called pretrial judge, shall supervise the exchange of the spouses' pleadings and the submission of documents. For example, it may

  • to require a spouse to submit his or her form of order within a specified time limit
  • or close the case without a spousal application
  • or floor the case in the event of failure to comply with its requests.

Once the file is complete, the pretrial judge closes the exchanges and sets the date hearing. No entries or conclusions can be added after the closing date.

Please note

the parties may make certain requests to the pre-trial judge. For example, they may request expertise (for example, family psychologic-medical expertise).

Participatory procedure

Spouses may decide to prepare their case without the intervention of a pre-trial judge. To do this, they sign a contract with their lawyers participatory procedure. This agreement includes reciprocal commitments and guarantees and is intended to put the case in a state to be tried.

In the course of the proceedings, if the spouses have reached a common agreement, and if they so wish, they may request a change of procedure by divorce by mutual consent.


On the day of the hearing, the spouses must be represented by their lawyer.

Lawyers can plead or simply file their case.

Please note

spouses are not required to be present, but they may attend the hearing.

At the end of the hearing, the judge gives the date of deliberate, i.e. the date on which the divorce judgment is delivered.

The judge may decide to issue the judgment on a date other than that originally provided for. A letter to counsel indicates the new date and reasons for the postponement.


The family judge pronounces the divorce (either for permanent alteration of the conjugal relationship, or for fault, or accepted).

Please note

exceptionally, divorce may be refused. For example, if no fault is proven in a fault divorce.

The judge decides on all applications submitted by the spouses (date of effect of divorce, compensatory benefit, residence and maintenance for children, name ...).


The spouses may contest the judgment in appealing.

The time limit for lodging the appeal shall be 1 month.

This period shall start from significance of the decision by a Commissioner of Justice.

The appeal is to the court of appeal through a lawyer.

If the spouses do not want to challenge the judge's decision, they can sign a act of acquiescence. This act simplifies the procedure, since each spouse declares to accept the judgment.

The mention of divorce must be noted in the margin of the marriage certificate and the birth certificate of each of the spouses.

Your attorneys must address the divorce decree to the mayor's office at the place of marriage.

Who shall I contact

If the marriage certificate has been issued abroad, your lawyers must send the application to the Central Civil Registry Service (Scec).

Who shall I contact

The City Hall or the Scec transmits the information to the birth mayors of the spouses so that they too update the documents.


you can take care of the request to update your marital status if your lawyer does not do so.

This entry in the margin of civil status shall be obligatory so that divorce can be enforceable against third parties, i.e. known and recognized by the administration, the employer, ...

This does not exempt you from informing third parties, one by one, of your divorce.

You can also update your family booklet.

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