It’s a pretty rare thing- to feel a sense of accomplishment when dealing with the French bureaucracy. But today, as I finalize paperwork for Ben’s French citizenship, I have to step back and appreciate the “win”.
They happen so infrequently when dealing with a foreign legal system.
I make no attempt to sugarcoat the fact that Ben’s father and I have spent years going back and forth in the French courts. Although contentious at times, we’ve been fortunate to receive many favorable outcomes as a result.
One of these being that at the conclusion of our 2014 proceedings, Ben was officially recognized by the French Republic as a French citizen born abroad.
This all sounds nice and wonderful, but like all things administratively French, it’s much more complicated than that. All this ruling actually meant was that Ben qualified to register as a French citizen. A nuance that was never explicitly stated, and was only ascertained after extensive communication with the French embassy and consulate. Essentially, he had “the right” to obtain French citizenship, where I had assumed that the ruling automatically granted this status.
That’s the tricky thing about the French bureaucracy. Everything is a paradox. Nothing is spelled out. And if something seems easy… you’re probably doing it wrong.
In the end, I learned that although the courts recognized his “right” to be French, Ben was not actually French… yet.
My conversations with the consulate had revealed that in order to register Ben as a French citizen, his father and I would have to collectively fill out paperwork specifically for unmarried parents. (And yes- there are different forms for married and unmarried parents. In our particular situation, we had to fill out forms to designate which “family name” Ben would legally use in France.)
In addition to this, remains a mountain of other documents required to add to our dossier, although, as the “foreign parent”, much less was required from me. All I needed to do was provide the documents instructed, get my forms notarized, and then ship them off to France, so that Ben’s father could complete his portion. And that’s where we are today.
There is an adage that says “Nobody really ever “wins” in family court”. I’d agree with that. It’s an ugly business that brings out the worst in people; one that I’ve witnessed first hand more times than I care to count.
But registering Ben on the French registry to finalize his citizenship is the first step towards bringing the last 6 years in-and-out of court to a highly anticipated and emotional close.
Until then, I remain hopeful. And probably with a glass of French wine in hand.