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You are obliged to look after parents

French law says you "owe maintenance" to parents "in need" – even if they are in the UK

WHAT IS the law in France concerning the responsibility of adult children for their elderly and infirm parents? C.C.

François Trémosa, a notaire from Toulouse with the Groupe Monassier, replies: According to art. 205 of the Civil Code, “children owe maintenance to their father and mother or other ascendants who are in need” and according to art. 206, “sons and daughters-in-law owe maintenance to their father- and mother-in-law under the same circumstances.”

The father or the mother (or both) must be in need, that is to say he or she cannot sustain themselves as their estate and revenues are too little. It is up to the father or mother to prove this and if a dispute arises, a judge will settle it.

Children are personally obliged to contribute, in proportion to their respective wealth: art. 208 states “maintenance shall be granted only in proportion to the needs of the one who claims it, and to the wealth of the one who owes it.”

However, the obligation of a spouse to maintain their spouse comes first, so the children can refuse to comply if the other parent is still alive and in a position to provide.

The obligations apply to all that is necessary to have a decent life - food, clothes, heating, lights, lodging, medical care - and to funerals. Hospitals and funeral companies can also make use of the right. In the case of hospitals however, they can only claim amounts due starting from the day they claimed.

When parents and children do not live in the same country, the Hague Convention of October 2, 1973 on the law applicable to maintenance obligations applies (signatories include both the USA and the EU). Under this, for example, if a parent lives in Britain but their children are in France, the parent could apply to a French law to enforce the maintenance responsibilities.

A British parent in France could equally apply to do this for children living in France. It is possible also to do it for children living elsewhere but it would be complex and costly to have such a ruling enforced abroad.

Resident or second-home owner in France?
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