Legal Information

This Justice Ministry help site is full of information and seems to be easy to use.

In certain circumstances, you can consult a lawyer for free.

You can also consult Guillaume Barlet, an English-speaking French lawyer currently based in London – +44 (0) 20 7831 0101 – and there is an Anglo-French lawyer in Aix en Provence

Go here to find a French lawyer (notaire) or here for the home page in English and here to find a notaire near you. There is a search facility by name, address, department and even by language. So if you enter just your department and English you will soon find out if there are any English-speaking French lawyers near you.

Not happy with your notaire?

Legal help sites (in French):

Most of these sites are not free. Check what the charges will be before committing yourself. This is just a selection and there are many other online services. Search for “Conseil Juridique gratuit en ligne”.

Small claims in Europe

This EU web page details the European Small Claims procedure designed to simplify and speed up cross-border claims of up to €2000.

Help with administrative problems

SOLVIT, the advocacy service for individuals or organisations from countries who are members of the EU having problems with state organisations in other member states.

Legal aid - how to get it

Three sites with information on French inheritance laws

Huissiers de Justice (bailiffs but with much greater powers than in the UK) See for an explanation of how they can help in minor conflicts with neighbours, over unpaid debts etc.

Need a letter written? This site will write you a letter in proper legal-speak and send it to the person/company you’re in conflict with. They will also, if necessary, lodge a formal complaint with the French small claims court (juge de proximité).

French law on libel:

As what you write in blogs or in comments or discussions on the Forum is in the public domain, you need to be aware of the dangers of libel and this summary of French law concerning defamation was posted by Cate Dal Molin.
Essentially, France has made it incredibly easy to win a libel suit. Nearly all you need to do is to show that you were defamed (“any allegation or imputation of an act affecting the honour or reputation of the person or body against whom it is made”). I said “nearly all” because yes, there is a defence, and that is truth.
Well, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it? But it is bad, and this is why: the burden of proof in France falls on the defendant.
That’s such a dry, legal phrase: “burden of proof”. But what it means in practice is that it’s up to the person who made the defamatory statement to prove to a three-judge panel (not a jury; this reflects the fact that the French have far less trust in the decisions of its ordinary citizen than the US does) that the defamatory statement was true. Or, if the statement concerned a matter of public importance, he/she is required to prove that he/she conducted a serious investigation before making the statement, and that the statement was measured and objective and without even a trace of personal hostility.
Check out that word, prove. It means just what it says, not “indicate he/she had reason to believe it was true” or “suggest it might be true,” or even “prove it was most likely true.” It places the burden of proof in defending against a libel suit unconscionably — almost ludicrously — high.

Is an email acceptable as proof in court?

The law on noise pollution

This is the site of the Conseil National du Bruit. Run the cursor over “tout sur les bruits” to get the list of areas covered – noisy neighbours for example – click on the one you want and you will get a list of links to more specific information such as the law.
And you can use your phone to monitor noise levels. INRIA, the Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique (National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control) has created Ambiciti which monitors both atmospheric and noise pollution and you can easily find other apps that turn your phone into a decibel meter…