Peggy Lethier avocate à la Cour France Angleterre

Accepted divorce

Why choose this?

Acceptance of the principle of marital breakdown (divorce par acceptation du principe de la rupture du mariage) applies in three situations:

  •  Both spouses agree on the principle of the divorce, but disagree on other matters. For instance, they may disagree on the amount of compensatory allowance, or the schedule of visits. In this case, they leave it to the judge to settle their differences.
  • One of the spouses wants a divorce. However, while not being opposed to the principle of the divorce, the other spouse does not wish to initiate divorce proceedings. This is why this procedure is often called ‘accepted divorce’.
  • Both spouses agree on the principle of the divorce and its consequences, but are unable or do not wish to go through a divorce by mutual consent. One reason for choosing this route is because the spouses want to finalise their divorce before their shared assets are sold, particularly where property prices are falling at the time.

As with divorce by mutual consent, the causes of marital breakdown are never revealed in legal documents or at the court hearing.

What are the steps?

If proceedings start after the 1st of January 2021

Acceptance of the divorce before any start of proceedings : an agreement by both spouses on the principle of a divorce can be given in a document signed by the spouses and their lawyers. This deed is then attached to the spouses’ petition for divorce and divorce proceedings are then initiated by the two spouses together, each being represented by his/her lawyer.

Acceptance of the divorce during proceedings: if one of the spouses has petitioned for divorce (assignation en divorce), spouses can still accept the principle of marital breakdown either at the first hearing known as the ‘Orientation Hearing and on Provisional Measures’, or during proceedings and without attending any hearing.

The date and time of this first hearing appear on the writ of summons (assignation en divorce) or the joint petition (requête conjointe). The defendant spouse who received a writ of summons for divorce must appoint a lawyer to represent her/him at this hearing and throughout proceedings.

If the spouses make requests for interim measures to be applicable during divorce proceedings, their presence is required at this hearing. However, if no request is made, parties can then be represented by their respective lawyers. At the hearing, the family-law judge (juge aux affaires familiales) takes note of the parties’ claims or any agreements regarding interim measures. Some measures might be taken for spouses, some for their children.

The family-law judge issues an Interim Measures Order which can be appealed. Warning ! If at this stage of the procedure, an agreement on the decision to divorce has been made already by the spouses, the principle of divorce being definitively acquired, the appeal can only relate to interim measures and not to the very principle of divorce.

The procedure continues by way of pleadings and documents exchanged between lawyers. It is possible for the parties to agree on a timetable during proceedings, i.e., deciding together when conclusions and documents must be communicated between lawyers and even planning the date of the end of the procedure (clôture). This new option should allow the spouses to control the length of their proceedings without having to be at the mercy of the judicial organization. To reach such a procedural agreement, the parties can use family mediation or the participative procedure (procédure participative). The family-law judge can approve partial or complete agreements between spouses. Its decision (jugement) is communicated to you through your lawyer and you can decide whether or not to appeal it.

If proceedings have started before the 1st of January 2021

To start these proceedings, a petition for divorce, (une requête en divorce), can be filed either by the lawyer of one of the spouses, or simultaneously by the lawyers of both spouses. Among other information, this petition will outline ‘interim measures’ that will occur during the divorce proceedings, such as where the spouses and any children will be living.
A few weeks or months later (depending on how busy the courts are), the spouses are summoned by the family-law judge, (un Juge aux affaires familiales), for a conciliation hearing, (une audience de conciliation).

During this hearing, the judge first sees both spouses separately, and then together with their lawyers. The judge makes sure that the spouses’ consent to the divorce is made voluntarily and is ‘fully informed’, meaning that both spouses are aware of all factors involved. If this is indeed the case, the judge will draw up an official statement, (un procès-verbal), recording that both spouses agree on the principle of the divorce. Once this is done, the principle of the divorce is final.

The judge will then examine the claims made by the spouses regarding interim measures, which only apply for the duration of the proceedings. At the end of the hearing, the judge sets a date on which they will give their decision regarding these measures. This judge’s ruling is called the non-conciliation order, (Une Ordonnance de Non Conciliation – ONC) and it will rule on:

  • Who stays in the marital home
  •  The separate home of each spouse
  • Parental authority
  • Residence of the child
  • Right of the non-custodial parent to regular visits and overnight stays (right of contact)
  • Maintenance (periodical payments) to be paid for the children and spouse if applicable
  • Division of household expenses
  • A spouse has the right to appeal against the order. For example, questioning the amount of maintenance to be paid or parental authority.

It is important to bear in mind that the appeal can only be made when it relates to the interim measures and not to the principle of the divorce itself, which is now final.

  • If the principle of a divorce was formally accepted during the conciliation hearing or soon afterwards and the spouses are in agreement regarding the consequences of their separation, the spouses file a joint application to initiate proceedings, (une requête conjointe introductive d’instance). This must be accompanied by the official statement of acceptance, (un procès-verbal d’acceptation) and may be filed at any time after the non-conciliation order. A family-law judge will ensure that each part of the agreement protects everyone’s interests, particularly those of any children. If it is the case, he will issue a final jugment endorsing the agreement (le jugement).
  •  If the principle or a divorce was formally accepted during the conciliation hearing or soon afterwards and the spouses are not in agreement regarding the consequences of their separation, the spouse that initially petitioned for divorce (the petitioner) has the right to summon the other spouse to a divorce hearing. This writ of summons (assignation en divorce) is notified to the other spouse by way of a bailiff (huissier de justice). Following the writ of summons, the divorce case is allocated to a family-law judge. This can be the same judge that ruled on the interim measures or a different judge. The parties must then exchange their pleadings, (des conclusions), through their lawyers, with the evidence to support their claims. The judge allows each lawyer a certain amount of time to conclude and respond to the opposing arguments, and to communicate all of the supporting evidence. Once the judge considers that the case is ready to be heard, he will set a court date for the lawyers’ closing speeches, (des plaidoiries). As with all other divorce hearings, this takes place behind closed doors. The spouses’ attendance at this hearing is not compulsory. The judge then sets a date on which they will make their final decision (usually one or two months later).
    The judge’s decision, (le jugement), is communicated to you through your lawyer, and you may consider the opportunity of an appeal.

It is important to bear in mind that the appeal cannot apply to the principle of the divorce itself, which was decided in the non-conciliation order and is now final. However, it could relate to aspects of the judge’s decision, such as the amount of compensatory allowance awarded by the judge to one of the spouses. 

Want to ask a question?

For a confidential discussion about your situation or requirements, you can contact Peggy Lethier by telephone or email: Contact

Mutual consent - consensual divorce

Since January 1, 2017, French law allows divorce by mutual consent without the intervention of a judge.

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  • What are the steps?
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