Enforcement of foreign judgements in France
Enforcement covers all those proceedings that make it possible to force a debtor to perform his or her obligations under an enforceable title.
Enforceable titles are primarily judgments (French or foreign) and notarial acts that are certified enforceable In French law, these titles can impose three types of obligations on the debtor: to pay, to do or to refrain from doing something, and lastly to give or return.
The right of enforcement concerns only the debtor’s assets.
Enforcement against persons does not exist. This means, for example, that debtors cannot be imprisoned solely for failing to repay their debt. However, a refusal to comply with certain obligations (maintenance obligations) is a criminal offence, making the debtor liable to prosecution and a prison sentence. The same applies to the fraudulent organisation of insolvency by a debtor.
Obligations to pay are enforceable by means of attachments of sums of money, movable property or immovable property belonging to the debtor. If the attachment concerns a sum of money, the sum attached will be assigned to the creditor (for instance, attachment of a bank account). If the attachment concerns movable or immovable property belonging to the debtor, the attachment will result in the compulsory sale of the asset and the proceeds of the sale will be given to the creditor, up to the amount of his or her claim.
Obligations to give or to return vary depending on the nature of the asset.
In the case of movable property, the asset is seized, by way of an attachment, to be returned to the legitimate owner. In the case of immovable property, possession of the property is returned to the owner by evicting the occupant.
Since it is prohibited to physically force a person to perform an obligation to do or to refrain from doing something, the debtor is encouraged to perform those obligations by the handing down, by the court, of a pecuniary penalty. The amount of the penalty is the sum of money the debtor must pay if he or she does not perform his or her obligations. The sum due is calculated in proportion to the period of failure to perform (in the case of obligations to do something) or according to the number of breaches of the obligation to refrain from doing something. Since obligations to pay, to give or to return are also interpreted as obligations to do something, they may also be combined with a pecuniary penalty in addition to other compulsory enforcement measures that may be taken. It should also be noted that only the obligations established by an enforceable title may, in principle, be subject to compulsory enforcement measures.
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