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:
- which Member State's courts
have jurisdiction to rule on divorce proceedings,
- how divorces granted in one
Member State are recognised in the others
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The Regulation has been replaced by Council Regulation (EC) No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
Which courts have
jurisdiction to rule on these matters?
Courts have jurisdiction to give a divorce ruling:
- in the Member State in
which the spouses habitually reside;
- in the Member State in
which the respondent habitually resides;
- if the spouses no longer
live in the same Member State, in the Member State in which they
habitually resided last, provided that one of them still lives there;
- in the case of a joint
application, in the Member State in which one or other of the spouses
- in some circumstances, in
the Member State in which the petitioner habitually resides;
- in the Member State of
which the spouses are nationals.
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.
- A divorce granted in one
Member State shall be automatically recognised by the other Member States
without any special procedures.
- However, any interested
party may ask the courts not to recognise a divorce judgment. This could
arise, for example, where such recognition is clearly contrary to public
policy or, in some circumstances, where the decision contradicts another
decision or where recognition was given in default of appearance if the
person in default was not served with the document which instituted the
proceedings in sufficient time and in such a way as to enable that person
to arrange for his or her defence.
- As a result of this
recognition of divorce decisions, no special procedure is required for the
updating of civil status documents in another Member State. The request
should be made on the basis of a final divorce (or legal separation or
annulment) judgment which may not be appealed under the law of the Member
New proposal on
applicable law and jurisdiction in divorce matters