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In civil matters, since the introduction of Law No 2010-769 of 9 July 2010, amended by Law No 2014-873 on genuine equality between women and men, the Family Court (juge aux affaires familiales) can issue a protection order (ordonnance de protection). This measure is governed by the following provisions:
A protection order is issued in the following situations:
The violence must have the consequence of endangering one of the members of the couple and/or their children. A court will issue a protection order if it considers there to be serious reasons for considering it likely that the alleged acts of violence took place and that the victim is in danger.
The Family Court can issue a protection order independently of any divorce proceedings and without the need for ongoing criminal proceedings.
The court may order the following measures:
These measures (in particular the order prohibiting meetings or contacts with certain persons) are, above all, preventive in nature. They may therefore fall within the scope of Regulation No 606/2013.
These measures are temporary: they can only be ordered for a maximum period of six months. They can be extended if, before the expiry of that period, an application is made for divorce, legal separation or relating to the exercise of parental authority.
The average length of the procedure is 33 days.
Referral to the court: The applicant may bring an action before the Family Court by an application lodged at or sent by a writ of summons (assignation). In urgent cases, the applicant can seek interim relief. The writ of summons must be served on the defendant and on the public prosecutor’s office.
Summons of parties : The Family Court has the parties summoned to the hearing by any appropriate means.
Hearing : The process is oral. The parties argue their own cases but may be assisted or represented by a lawyer.
Notice: A protection order is served (by a bailiff (huissier de justice)) unless the court decides that it should be served by the Registry by registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt or through administrative channels where there is a serious and imminent danger to the safety of a person concerned by a protection order or where there is no other means of service.
The court also communicates the decision to the public prosecutor in order to ensure the follow-up of the ordered measures. The public prosecutor forwards the decision for information to the appropriate police or gendarmerie services. In addition, if the procedure reveals the existence of a child in danger, the court refers the matter to the appropriate services of the public prosecutor (juvenile department) after the hearing.
Register: There is no special register of measures ordered in connection with protection orders. However, if a court issues an order prohibiting a child from leaving French territory without the authorisation of both parents, the order must be registered in the Wanted Persons Database.
Appeal: The decision is subject to appeal within 15 days of being served. The defendant may also make an application for the lifting or the variation of the protection order or for a temporary waiver of some of its obligations.
Enforcement of the protection order:
The measures ordered in connection with a protection order are enforceable, i.e. they may be put into effect immediately after the decision has been served (even if the defendant appeals), with the assistance of the law enforcement services if necessary.
The protected person may refer the matter to the police or the gendarmerie in the event of a breach of one or more of the measures ordered by the Family Court.
Failure to comply with the measures concerned constitutes a punishable offence under Article 227-4-2 of the Penal Code. The offence is punishable by two years’ imprisonment and a fine of €15,000.
If the parents have joint parental authority, the court authorising the concealment of the victim’s address must also lay down the arrangements for maintaining the link between the person causing the risk and the child through a third party or through the use of a meeting place as well as the payment of any maintenance allowance by bank transfer.
The Family Court orders all protection measures and issues the certificates provided for in Article 5.
A Family Court with territorial jurisdiction is:
The application for the certificate must be submitted in duplicate and must include a precise indication of the supporting documents. Representation by a lawyer is not required. A refusal to issue the certificate can be challenged before the president of the Regional Court (tribunal de grande instance), as the appeal need not be made through a lawyer.
The authorities before which a protection measure ordered in another Member State must be invoked and/or which are competent to enforce such a measure are the police and the gendarmerie.
The president of the Regional Court or their delegate, sitting in relief proceedings, makes adjustments to the foreign protective measures if necessary. The application is made through a writ of summons; if the case requires prompt action, the court hearing applications for interim relief may allow a summons to attend a hearing at a stated time, even during public holidays or days that are not normally working days. Representation by a lawyer is not required.
With regard to territorial jurisdiction, the rules of the case-law giving priority to the requirements of the sound administration of justice are applied. The president of the regional court of the place where the protected person plans to stay or to reside can therefore receive applications.
An application for refusal of recognition or enforcement must be submitted to the president of the regional court hearing applications for interim relief (taking into account the nature of the case, the case can be delegated to a Family Court).
The application is made through a summons; if the case requires prompt action, the court hearing applications for interim relief may allow a summons to attend a hearing at a stated time, even during public holidays or days that are not normally working days. Representation by a lawyer is not required.
With regard to territorial jurisdiction, the rules derived from case-law giving priority to the requirements of the sound administration of justice are applied. It will therefore be possible to make the application to the President of the Regional Court of the place where the protected person plans to stay or to reside.
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