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What does "Renvoi" Mean?

"Renvoi" is a legal doctrine addressing conflicts of law, where a court adopts the rules of a foreign jurisdiction. It's like legal ping-pong, bouncing cases to the jurisdiction deemed most appropriate. Intrigued? Discover how renvoi could impact international legal disputes in our full exploration.
Staci A. Terry
Staci A. Terry

Renvoi is a legal doctrine that applies when there is a conflict of laws in a particular court case. Under this doctrine, a court may adopt and/or apply the laws of a foreign jurisdiction, usually for some limited purpose in a certain case. The term is from the French, and literally means “to send back.”

The purpose behind renvoi is to ensure that all types of a particular case receive the same treatment or application of law, in order to ensure the same result in common cases. Ideally, the purpose behind the doctrine is that the same case will have the same result, no matter where litigation of the case occurs. Renvoi can help prevent forum shopping, or instances where the plaintiff files his or her legal claim in the jurisdiction where the law is most favorable to him or her.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Ultimately, the outcome of the case may not be uniform if the two relevant jurisdictions operate under identical frameworks. For instance, if one court looks to a foreign jurisdiction for guidance on which laws to apply, and that jurisdiction’s choice of applicable law directs the original court to apply its own law as the forum of the case, then a different result could occur than if the forum of the case was the foreign jurisdiction. In this situation, the same case potentially could have quite different outcomes, assuming that the laws of those two jurisdictions on the relevant issue differ. Therefore, the stated goal of the legal doctrine of renvoi is not always achievable.

One common form of this doctrine is double renvoi. Under this type of legal doctrine, the court in which the case is situated applies the law of the foreign jurisdiction. In this sense, the court is essentially sitting as the foreign court would in an identical case, which thereby assures uniformity of results. This approach will prevent forum shopping by the plaintiff, since the result would be the same regardless of the forum.

The United States and many other nations have largely rejected the legal doctrine of renvoi. Some jurisdictions, however, may apply renvoi to limited situations, such as in probate and/or estate matters which concern the validity of wills and interstate succession issues. Another area where renvoi may be applicable is family law, especially concerning the validity of marriage, the capacity of one or both parties to marry, and the validity of divorce decrees.

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Discussion Comments


I can understand why, in the case of divorce decrees and other aspects of family law, that the revoi doctrine would be applied.

With conflicts in marriage, divorce and child custody, there is often movement from one jurisdiction to another. If there is a conflict in laws between the jurisdiction where one event happened and another happened, the court may need to apply laws from "foreign jurisdictions." I think that this must happen in child custody cases, where one parent moves to another state. What happens to the original custody agreement?


It's interesting that so many of our legal terms come from the French language. I wonder if the French developed the foundation of the legal system that we use today?

Anyway, back to "renvoi." I guess that there are some laws that are a bit different from one jurisdiction to another. I really don't understand why they are different. Just the fact that someone would even have to think about looking around for another court to have the laws work better for him, doesn't seem right.

As the article says, renvoi isn't used very much anymore. It's complicated and is difficult to apply fairly. And it doesn't seem to work a lot of the time.

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