New Divorce Rules for Europe
New European Union legislation on divorce will enable couples with different nationalities, those living apart in different countries, or those living together in a nation other than their home country, to decide which country’s laws apply to their divorce. The European Parliament passed the legislation and the new rules will go into effect in 18 months.
The rules will be enforced in a group of 14 European Union countries including Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Hungary, Malta, Austria, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia, and any countries that seek to join the group later can enlist at any time. The approval comes in response to a request made last year by nine Member States to introduce legislation that would make cross-border divorces easier to navigate as well as reduce the practice of courtroom shopping in multiple countries to gain an advantage. The new rules are also hoped to protect weaker, less well-off spouses during the divorce process.
Couples with different national backgrounds often must deal with a maze of complex and sometimes arbitrary, legal problems that can make the divorce process into the beginning of a lasting financial and emotional disaster. Couples will be able to decide which country’s procedures will govern their divorce, giving them greater legal predictability. More choices could potentially help spouses and families avoid unnecessarily complicated divorces and maybe even save some money in the process. If a couple cannot decide which country’s law will apply to them, the Member courts will now have a common standard formula they can utilize to help guide the decision. Prior to the new rules, twenty of the European Union countries determined which country’s laws would apply in a divorce based on the nationality and residence of the spouses. Seven EU Member countries used their own domestic laws to govern divorce. The new legislation will have no effect on Member States’ ability to define marriage within their own boundaries though.