Unmasking the Bourgeoisie

Tribunal de Famille

A Love Story




Real Life

The tribunal de famille was the key institution for the first years the divorce law was in effect. It was used as a divorce court in which, more commonly, cases of violence and adultery were heard. The divorce law gave minimal guidance to the tribunal in terms of the composition of it, and no guidance to the procedure it should follow. The basic law regarding the tribunal said that if a fight occurred between husband and wife they would each name two family members who would serve as the arbiters of the case. In the event that family members were not available to serve on the court, the party whose family members were not available could name neighbors or friends to take their place as arbiter. When the tribunal gave its ruling either party was free to appeal the decision to the tribunal de district who would give the final ruling in the case.

The tribunal de famille did not have a permanent meeting location, so meeting places varied from the home of the eldest arbiter to a trained professional's office. While the home of the eldest family member was a sign of respect the professional's office was a sign of judicial law. In 1796 the tribunal was abolished because people felt it did not fulfill its goals of being a quick, family-oriented, cheap institution. Instead, many found the cases to be drawn out, the parties involved would name legal professionals instead of family members to be the arbiters, and the cost of these cases increased because of these hired professionals (Phillips 1980, p. 17-34).