EU’s new divorce settlement regulation for international couples comes into force

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Published 11:19 January 30, 2019

Updated 11:19 January 30, 2019

The EU has introduced new rules that are designed to settle property disputes between what Brussels calls “international married couples and registered partners”, part of an initiative by the European Union to help streamline the process of settling ownership and inheritance rights in the event of a divorce or death.

The main purpose of the new regulation is for the EU to implement a set of rules that concern divorce settlements and which will be applicable across the whole of the bloc. Brussels’ stated goal, in this case, is to put an end to the possibility of parallel or conflicting cases either being filed or opened by independent divorce courts in any of the 28 EU nations.

These new rules will make it easier and cheaper to divide joint assets and provide some relief to people in difficult circumstances,” said the EU’s Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova, who added, “More than 16 million international couples will benefit from clear procedures in case of divorce or death of a partner. They will be able to save around €350 million each year on legal costs.”

The Commission said that the new regulations will facilitate the recognition and enforcement in one country of a judgment given in another country’s courts. They also clarify which courts should deal with matters concerning the couples’ property and which national law takes precedence in the case of a settlement.

Thus far, no consensus has been reached with all 28 members, but Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden have agreed to observe Brussels’ new protocol.

The remaining non-participating EU members will continue to exercise their legal right to apply their own national laws, including country-specific rules on private international law concerning the cross-border property rights of spouses and registered partners.

According to the European Commission, the 18 member says that have joined enhanced cooperation account for 70% of the EU population and represent the majority of international couples living in the EU.

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