In a contentious opinion of June 21 2022, the French Council of State relativizes the probative value of the legalization of foreign civil status records. Imposed by article 16 of the law of March 23, 2019, this formality was previously imposed by “international custom recognized by established case law of the judicial judge,” the high court recalls.
In this legal framework, the French Conseil d’Etat indicates that “when a civil status document emanating from a foreign authority is produced before the administration and has been legalized, the veracity of the signature affixed to this document, the capacity of the person who drew it up, and the identity of the seal or stamp with which this document is covered are in principle attested. In the event of doubt as to the authenticity of the signature, the identity of the stamp or the capacity of the person signing the authentication, it is up to the administrative authority to proceed, under the control of the judge, with all useful verifications to ensure the reality and authenticity of the authentication.
However, since legalization is limited to attesting to the formal regularity of an act, “the probative value of the act may be challenged by any means likely to establish that the act in question is irregular, falsified or inaccurate. Consequently, in the event of a challenge to the probative value of a legalized civil status record established abroad, it is up to the administrative judge to form his or her conviction based on all the elements placed in the file in the context of the investigation of the dispute submitted to him or her.
Therefore, the absence of legalization does not allow the administration or the judge to dismiss the foreign act.
French Conseil d’Etat June 21, 2022
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