Divorce in Europe

Since 1 March 2001, divorces granted in the European Union have been more readily recognised between Member States.

When two people of different nationalities or two people who no longer live in the same Member State wish to divorce, they need to know to which courts or authorities they must apply and where.

In 2000, the Council adopted a regulation that determines:

This Regulation concerns the dissolution of marriage. It also covers decisions on parental responsibility for the children of both spouses, if such decisions were taken at the time of the divorce. More information on this subject can be found under "Parental Responsibility". It does not, however, relate to matters such as maintenance or the division of property.

The Regulation has been replaced by Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003, which entered into application 1 March 2005. The new Regulation did not modify the rules on matrimonial matters and applies to divorce judgments given after that date. It also applies to legal separations and annulments. As it is a regulation, its provisions are directly applicable, which means that anyone can rely on them in the courts.

It is not applicable in Denmark.

The Regulation does not determine which national law the courts should apply. In some cases, the courts of one Member State must apply the laws of another state. This depends on the national law of each of the Member States.

To obtain more information on this subject, click on the flags of the Member States concerned.

Which courts have jurisdiction to rule on these matters?

Courts have jurisdiction to give a divorce ruling:

The parties may not choose a court other than those listed above.


Should a case be brought before the courts of more than one Member State, the court before which the case was first brought is considered to have jurisdiction. In other words, if a case is brought in a particular court, that court still has jurisdiction even if the case is subsequently brought in another court. But the other courts should decline to accept jurisdiction.

Recognition of decisions

New proposal on applicable law and jurisdiction in divorce matters

Reference documents

Source: EC