9 Which is the competent authority to turn to in cases of disputes and other legal issues?

The Brussels II bis Regulation provides rules of direct jurisdiction for proceedings relating to divorce, judicial separation and marriage annulment. The regulation does not cover disputes relating solely to the property consequences of marriage. Judges are bound to automatically apply rules of jurisdiction arising from this regulation when determining the jurisdiction of French courts before applying the national rules of jurisdiction.

The Brussels II bis Regulation affords plaintiffs the choice between two major criteria to determine jurisdiction: habitual residence (Art. 3-1 (a)) or nationality (art. 3-1 (n)). Thus, plaintiffs may choose between seven cases of jurisdiction (Cass. civ. I, 24 September 2008, appeal No. 07-20.248).

For disputes relating solely to the property consequences of marriage, international jurisdiction is determined by the extension of the rules of jurisdiction of domestic law.

In domestic law, the family court judge has exclusive jurisdiction in personal matters. The competent court is that of the place of residence of the couple. Where the couple have separate residences, the competent family court judge is that of the place of residence of the spouse habitually residing with children who are minor and, in other cases, the family court judge of the place of residence of the spouse who did not petition for divorce (Art. 1070 C.P.C.).

The French judge may also be competent where one of the parties in the dispute is a French national (Art. 14 and 15 CC).