2 June 2015

Recognition & enforcement of foreign adoption decrees in France

Because they deal with personal status and capacity of natural persons, foreign adoption decrees are recognized in France as of right.

The Convention on protection of children and co-operation in respect of intercountry adoption of May 29th, 1993 establishes the principle of automatic recognition of adoption decrees having an effect in a Member State. The list of countries which have signed the convention is available here.

However, the recognition and enforcement procedure (“exequatur”) will have to be implemented in certain cases. First, the exequatur procedure will be mandatory if the acquisition of French citizenship is at stake. Secondly, it will also be mandatory if the establishment of parentage by the registration on the civil status registers is requested.

Acquisition of the French citizenship by the adopted child

The acquisition of French citizenship is not automatic, it will depend on the adoption itself. If the adoption is equivalent to the French “adoption plénière’, meaning that all previous parental ties are severed, then the French citizenship will automatically be granted to the adopted child.

Conversely, an “adoption simple” will not automatically grant French citizenship since previous parental ties still remain. In this case, it will be necessary to seek the recognition and enforcement of the adoption judgement in order for the adopted child to acquire French citizenship.

The registration on the civil status registers

The registration on the civil status registers aims at making the foreign adoption effective in France with all the consequences that the law attaches to it. This will establish the legal relationship between the adopted child and the parents including the attribution of the family name.

The registration on the civil status registers process is implemented by sending a request to the Procureur de la République de Nantes. The Procureur can accept or deny the request.

The exequatur procedure will be necessary if the Procureur denies the request.

The recognition and enforcement procedure

The recognition and enforcement procedure will either follow the rules laid down by international bilateral and multilateral treaties or French law. You can visit the Countries section of the Recognition & Enforcement dropdown menu to see if your country has an international treaty with France.

Without international treaties, the rules to recognize and enforce an adoption decree will follow those laid down by the famous Cornelissen case (Cour de cassation, February 20th, 2007). The French judge will verify that:

  • The foreign Court has proper jurisdiction under French law,
  • The foreign decree complies with French procedural and substantive public policy,
  • The foreign decree was rendered without fraudulent forum shopping (evasion of the law)

Given the excesses that have occurred these past few years, fraudulent forum shopping is one of the most controlled conditions. It is not uncommon to see couples try to adopt a child abroad, because it would not be authorized in France, and later on try to recognize and enforce the foreign adoption judgement in France. One of the most common examples is the so-called “procreative tourism”. Couples who cannot have children go abroad to use a surrogate mother. Such practices are prohibited under French law.

The Cour de cassation has changed its views on the subject and decided in a very recent case that the use of a surrogate mother does not prevent the adopted child from being registered on the French civil status registers and therefore, does not prevent the legal relationship between the child and the parents from being recognized (Cour de cassation July 3rd, 2015). It is not clear whether the Cour de cassation considers that a foreign adoption normally prohibited in France can be recognized in full or if it only grants the registration.

As a French-American attorney at law, I have had extensive experience in international adoption matters. Whether my clients seek to adopt in France or recognize a foreign adoption decree, I provide them with high quality skills which optimize their chances of success. If you need assistance or advice on international adoption matters, you can use the Contact form at the bottom of the home page.