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Annulling an international marriage: what is the governing law ?

Home > International Law | Published 2020-02-06


Marriages are more and more celebrated between spouses of different nationalities or in foreign countries at their place of habitual residence. International law is more frequently used today, especially in matters of estate and divorce. As a result, the marriages listed above may be affected by one or more extraneous elements making them international.

Have you celebrated your marriage abroad or are you married to someone with a different nationality? Would you like to annul your marriage? The assistance of an experienced lawyer in international family law will be of great help to you throughout the annulment of your marriage. Avocats Picovschi, a Parisian firm composed of experienced divorce attorneys will help you facilitate this arduous process.

What are the conditions of validity of a marriage ?

The validity of a marriage between two people of different nationalities depends on the basic conditions and forms. When one of the conditions has been violated at the time of the celebration of the marriage, an annulment will depend on the law that governs the condition violated.

The conditions of form are broad, these are the formalities which precede, are concurrent or subsequent to the celebration of the marriage.

However, formal requirements concern sex, age, consent of spouses, ability of spouses, or special authorizations.

The Rebouh decision rendered by the First Civil Chamber of the French Court of Cassation on October 11th  1988, states that in case of rights which the parties do not have the free disposition of, in particular marriage, the judge is forced to automatically look to the conflict rule.

Conflict of law rules on annulment

Two systems of conflict of laws vary according to the nature of the condition of validity violated. When an annulment is sought due to a substantive defect, then the law of the nationality of each of the spouses needs be consulted.

This conflict of law rule falls under the provisions of Article 3 of the French Civil Code. The spouses’ consent is a basic condition of marriage, which means that the judge must refer to the national law of each of the spouses in the light of Article 3 of the French Civil Code.

For example, if a marriage was contracted between a person of French nationality and another of English nationality but a problem related to the spouses’ consent occurred during the celebration of the marriage, the judge will have to refer to the French law and the English law.

Furthermore, if the marriage is tainted by a defect in form, the judge will apply the law of the country of celebration of the marriage to the annulment. Spouses must respect the forms required by local law. This means that if foreigners decide to marry in France, they will not be able to marry only religiously, since a civil ceremony will have to be celebrated beforehand.

French residents and/or citizens who decide to marry abroad must obtain a marriage license in France (Article 170 and 63 of the French Civil Code).  This is a formal requirement which needs be respected.

The law applicable to annulments shall determine the time limits for taking action, the causes for the termination of the action and the people who may request the annulment.

However, the applicable foreign law may be ruled out when the marriage has been celebrated in France and is contrary to French public policy or undermines the principle of freedom and secularism of marriage. It is up to the French judge to analyze the situation and decide on a case-by-case basis whether the law is contrary to French public policy or not.

For 30 years, Picovschi Lawyers has an experienced team in international family law that can assist you in your request for an annulment.

This article is available online for public information purposes. It is updated regularly, as needed. Due to the constant evolution of the laws and the legal system, we cannot guarantee that the information in this article is still applicable. We invite you to contact us with any legal questions or concerns you have regarding this topic at +33 1 56 79 11 00. In no way can this firm be held liable for articles that contain inaccuracies or are now out of date.

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