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I have a debtor in France, how can I force him to pay?” A Quick Guide to Debt Recovery in France

Debt recovery can be a challenging process, particularly when the debtor is in a foreign country. If you are a creditor with a debtor in France, you may be wondering what legal options are available for you to recover the debt. In this article, we will guide you through the debt recovery process in France and explain the legal mechanisms you can use to enforce payment.

1.      Amicable debt recovery process

The first step in the debt recovery process is to try and reach an amicable agreement with the debtor. This involves communicating with the debtor to request payment and possibly negotiating a payment plan. It is important to document all communication with the debtor and keep a record of any agreements reached.

If you are unable to reach an agreement with the debtor, you may need to escalate the matter to legal proceedings.

2.      Legal Proceedings

The French legal system offers several mechanisms for debt recovery, depending on the amount of the debt and the type of debt involved.

  • Small claims

If the debt is less than 5,000€, you can initiate a small claims procedure called “Procédure de recouvrement simplifié”. This procedure involves filing a claim online before the commissioner of justice and providing evidence of the debt. The commissioner will get contact with the debtor and invite him for a meeting with the creditor. In the event the debtor does not answer or refuses the invitation, then the creditor is allowed to sue the debtor before court.

  • Payment order (“Injonction de payer”),

This procedure involves filing a claim with the competent court and providing evidence of the debt. If the court grants the payment order (“Injonction de payer”), the debtor has one month to contest the order. If the debtor does not contest it within that one-month period, the payment order becomes enforceable.

If the debtor contests the debt, the case will be referred to a judge, who will analyze the evidence(s) presented by both parties and make a ruling.

NB : If the debtor is located in another country, the debt recovery process becomes more complex. However, France has signed various international treaties that provide a framework for international debt recovery.

If the debtor is in another European Union country, you can use the European Payment Order procedure to recover the debt. This involves submitting a standard form to the competent court in the debtor’s country of residence. If the court grants the payment order, it is enforceable throughout the European Union.

  • Ordinary Proceedings

If you consider that the debt may be disputable, you can choose to follow the ordinary proceedings rules to save time. You will have to file the claim before the competent court by delivering the so called “assignation” (writ of summon) to the debor with the help of a bailiff. 

The case will then be registered to the Court, and you will have to present all the evidence to the judge. A pleading hearing will take place and a judgement will be pronounced. These ordinary proceedings can take last months so it is important to analyze if the debt is disputable with the help of a lawyer, before registering the case in Court.  

N.B. : In the event the debtor might be insolvent or might organize his insolvency, the creditor  can initiate a “saisie conservatoire” which is a process whereby the judge allows the creditor to seize the debtor’s assets without prior information as a precautionary measure. However this special measure requires to provide full evidence of the insolvency risk to the judge.

  • Enforcement Proceedings

Once a payment order or judgment is obtained, the creditor can initiate enforcement proceedings to recover the debt. This involves applying to a bailiff to seize the debtor’s assets and bank accounts. The bailiff can also initiate legal proceedings to sell the seized assets to satisfy the debt.

In addition, the creditor can initiate a “saisie conservatoire” which is a process where they seize the judge without informing the debtor in order to obtain the right to seize, as a precautionary measure, the debtor’s bank account. This measure is also a faster process to obtain a provisional measure but the creditor must prove the existence of an urgent situation.

It is important to note that each of these legal processes has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice of which one to pursue will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. Therefore, it is recommended to seek the advice of a qualified lawyer to determine the best course of action.

Recovering a debt in France can be a complex process, particularly if the debtor is in another country. However, the French legal system offers various mechanisms to help creditors enforce payment, ranging from amicable debt recovery to legal proceedings and enforcement proceedings. If you have any questions on this subject or need assistance with debt recovery in France, please get contact with our dedicated lawyers on

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