I found out I have a child in Paris

I had a brief fling last summer with my French ex. We found out we were pregnant. After she got back to Paris, a few days later, she told me she miscarried and promptly broke up with me. I was blindsided. She treated me very poorly after this and I had no idea why.

Fast forward to now. I had a gut feeling that she could have lied so I hired a private detective in Paris and found out that she did have the baby in May. No father has recognized the child in official documentation.

I am 100% certain it has to be mine as we were together day and night when conception could have happened.

She has always had a silver spoon and never had to work a real job. I am completely fine paying maintenance, but I’m afraid that she may have undiagnosed mental issues and don’t think she is capable of raising a child.

I have heard that French courts (always?) favor the mother. I want to know how I can best position myself to be a stable part of my child’s life. Is it possible to have split custody? I live in the US but wouldn’t be opposed to learning French and moving to Paris. I work in the tech industry and have an Ivy League degree.

What am I in for?

Ouch…see why your pen name is “dazed”.

As you are not married you don’t automatically have paternal rights, you first have to establish them. So I suggest your first step is to consult an Avocat spécialisé en Droit de la Famille. There are French /American practices in the States.

After that the permutations are numerous regarding paying for the child, getting access, and having a say in its upbringing. But until you are recognised as his or her father nothing can be negotiated.


Other than to endorse the above, the only thing I can add is that IMO you would be better positioned to fight this battle if you were based in Paris rather than the US. The French legal system is complex.


I thought of this. It’s going to be an uphill battle as her family is well connected. I’ll be solo without any support network. I’m wondering if it’s best to launch the legal fight now and wait on the move until after Covid is over.

If I were to win 50% custody, would it be likely that a French judge would allow me to bring the child to US during my visitation time?

I really have no idea…sorry.

How’s your French, as maybe you would get more detailed advice from a group specifically for estranged fathers? Here:


I haven’t a clue. But before engaging the legal bastards who are only interested in fleecing everyone involved (apologies to my lawyer pals) I’d suggest building a file of correspondence to her, and indeed her parents, saying how you recognise your responsibilities and you are keen to participate in the care and upbringing of your kiddy. A full on legal assault will only reflect badly on you. Try and build bridges, document everything and if t doesn’t work out then you have at least built a case.


If you aren’t legally recognised by France as the child’s father, and you aren’t French and the child’s mother doesn’t want to cooperate with you, then you haven’t got a hope in hell. Even if you were legally recognised as the child’s father you would not be allowed to take the child to another country for your droit de visite, if there were any suspicion of conflict at all.
Not being on the same continent as your putative child is not in your favour.
I can only echo the try to build bridges advice: badmouthing the mother by hinting at mental problems, unsuitability and spoiltness will not go down well with JAFs here.
If you want a relationship with the child you had better try to have a civilised mature one with the mother.
You catch more flies with jam than with vinegar.

Er no She found out she was pregnant and a brief fling doesn’t indicate stability.


100% agree with John. I think it’s essential that you are seen to react with overwhelming love wish to be involved and offers to support (even if not needed) as soon as you became aware of your child’s existence. Keep a note of everything, even every phone call or any attempt you make to reach her to discuss any encounter with her family etc., and continue. “Build up a file” as John says.

It would be nice if there was a way to force a paternity test (genetic) quickly. I do not know if there is a way in French law in your situation. I think as @JaneJones says you need to find a specialist French legal specialist quickly who can advise you realistically and tell you the steps you should take to protect your position (if you have any position in French law, that is). Personally in France I’d start with the mairie, with the social worker attached to the mairie, and I know my own notaire would know where to send me to get help (as notaries also have to know family law).

You have a lot against you if the mother of the child does not want you involved and can prove materially the child will not suffer due to lack of your involvement. Start to build up your file now, keep building it, and find specialist support quickly.

Good luck

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Avocat straight away, the notaire if you have one is just useful to recommend someone. Notaires don’t deal with the JAF (juge aux affaires familiales). The mairie will not be of any use.
ps start paying child maintenance, by transfer identified as child maintenance, every month : 200 € is the normal MINIMUM.


OP lives in the States…mother and child seem to be in Paris. Mairies in Paris are not the same as in smaller communes, and would not be concerned at all (not that they would in rural areas either, but might at least give you the time of day). The assistantes sociale have their workload cut out with people in need. And a well-heeled baby lacking a father figure would be of no interest whatsoever.

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French courts majoritarily favour the mother, the more so if it can be shown that the child’s wellbeing would risk being unsettled due to sharing of parental responsibilities. Alleging unfounded and as yet undiagnosed mental instability will not sit well with a French family law judge and would probably not really help your case unless you have documented evidence, but even then, the court would still likely favour . The mother had her reasons to keep you out of the loop, and the court might be inclined to lean towards her side of the argument.
Shared custody and foreign soil visiting rights are statistically almost unheard-of for the simple reason that in fractious disputes fathers tend to abscond with the child to a different country from which it is difficult for the French authorities to do anything, and as a result, the courts shy away from such a solution. Shared custody even when living in the same country is also relatively rare, even when you can make a showing of having a stable job, home, and relatively close living distance from the other parent. The court assesses the overall risks and benefit to the child - if the status quo appears to be functioning without the other parent’s input, then it is fairly rare for a court to change that status quo.

There is only one thing to do and that is go and see a lawyer, any other comments are just that comments


Comments based on the advice I received from my French family law counsel whilst going through divorce and requesting shared custody from the court. There are the individual circumstances, and then there are the statistics.

You say that your Ex had a baby in May
Timewise, pregnancy is not as clearcut as you might think …
Your Ex’s medical notes are private (so you won’t have seen any info therein) and without a DNA test I really don’t see how you can possibly be 100% certain the baby is yours…

but I’m not seeking to join in an argument with you on this matter, just trying to be realistic.

I agree with the others, who have suggested you should take proper legal advice…
but be prepared to fail and/or be proved wrong with any claim …

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Boy, I feel terrified.

Although rare, shared custody is possible as it was granted to a couple I know. English father, French mother although they had been married for 10 years and the split was as amicable as it could be. It helped that they both wanted it to be that way.
Like others have said wading in with a law suit before trying a more amicable approach may not go so well.
Izzy x

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I know little about the legalities here - and obviously you need a lawyer’s advice on this - but reading this thread my advice is to also try, try and try again for sufficient reconciliation and trust-building with your former girlfriend and her family, so that even without legal intervention you might ultimately be able to play a role in your child’s future life. At some point, it’s likely that your child his/herself will want this.
One of the terrible, but equally wonderful facts of life is that people change.

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I mean, she hasn’t even admitted to me that a child was born. She plays dumb every time I’ve asked or at worse gets aggressive. I’ve been nothing but kind. Now that I have proof from the investigator, I feel like there isn’t any other option but an attorney. I still want to “use honey to catch flies” as another has suggested but time is ticking and I’m losing precious bonding time. I feel like I’m in a disaster catch-22 either way.

I want to thank all of you kind strangers for taking the time to respond to me. I’m glad to have found this forum.

You may have a bit of a chicken and egg situation in that you would need to apply for a visa before you can come to France; if you could prove family ties the visa would be issued automatically subject to you meeting a few conditions, but since you can’t even start trying to prove family ties until you get here, you would need to find another route to obtaining a visa. You say you “wouldn’t be opposed to learning French and moving to Paris” but US citizens are subject to immigration conditions, they can’t just decide they will maybe move to France.

I can’t see any court deciding that it would be in a child’s best interests to be shipped half way around the world on a regular basis. Think of what impact that would have on its education, its social development etc? Worst case scenario, even suggesting this might go against you because the judge may feel you are putting your own wishes - to get shared custody of the child - ahead of the child’s interests.

Privately arranged paternity tests are illegal in France. A paternity test can only be instructed by a judge in the context of formal proceedings brought by either the mother or the putative father.

If you want to pursue this you are going to have to think hard about how to present your case I think, because looked at objectively, the way you presented it in your first post does not show you in a good light. You have a fling with your ex (what were the circumstances of the split?), who you don’t trust and you think has mental issues (and yet you went ahead and had a fling with her?) and is incapable of raising a child, and you get her pregnant (you didn’t use contraception?). Then you set a private detective on her. Is a judge going to warm to you and see you as a reliable, supportive parent and role model?

Be aware, too, that if you do succeed in establishing paternity, you will have ongoing responsibilities and obligations and France will make sure you meet them. French law is big on making sure that rights are balanced out by responsibilities; you won’t be allowed to dip in and out of being a parent. If the matter goes to court, which seems likely since from what you say the mother is likely to contest your claim, and if the courts decide to grant you any rights, the they will also decide exactly what obligations you will have in return for those rights. Be careful what you wish for, as they say.

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which may or may not have any bearing on this case.
Go see a lawyer its the only thing to do.