Brussels, 20 November 2012
Lithuania is the 15th EU Member State to sign up to enhanced cooperation rules to help international couples
Tomorrow, the European Commission will confirm Lithuania's decision to join the enhanced cooperation procedure allowing international couples to select which country's law would apply to their divorce and legal separation. The Regulation gives couples legal certainty and prevents a "rush to court" and forum shopping in divorces, while at the same time avoiding emotionally and financially costly proceedings.
"For the first time in EU history, Member States used the enhanced cooperation procedure to push forward with rules allowing international couples to select which country's law would apply to their divorce. People fall in love across borders, whatever their nationality, but Member States' courts have different ways of deciding which country's law applies to divorces. International couples need to be certain of the rules that apply in their situation – which is what the Regulation provides for," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "The new rules will benefit hundreds of thousands of international couples and it is encouraging to see that more and more Member States are recognising this."
EU governments adopted the Council Decision authorising enhanced cooperation on the law applicable to divorce and legal separation in July 2010 (IP/10/917). As a consequence, the 14 participating countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain) adopted a Council Regulation that contains detailed rules on the choice of the law applicable to international divorces (called Rome III Regulation). The Regulation entered into application on 21 June 2012. It has no effect on national divorce or marriage laws.
Lithuania was the first additional Member State notifying its wish to participate in this enhanced cooperation (IP/12/590). Other Member States that want to participate can do so at any time.
Enhanced cooperation allows a group of at least nine member states to implement measures if all 27 Member States fail to reach agreement. Other EU countries keep the right to join when they want (Article 331 TFEU).
The Regulation on the law applicable to divorce and legal separation aims to protect weaker partners during divorce disputes. It allows international couples to agree in advance which law would apply to their divorce or legal separation. In case the couple cannot agree, the judges can use a common formula for deciding which country's law applies. The Regulation gives couples more legal certainty, predictability and flexibility. This also helps to protect spouses and their children from complicated, lengthy and painful procedures. The Regulation has no effect on national divorce or marriage laws, nor does it foresee the adoption of rules affecting substantive family law of the Member States.
The new solutions help couples of different nationalities, those living apart in different countries or those living together in a country other than their home country. The need for EU action is clear: There were more than 1 million divorces in the 27 Member States in 2007, of which 140,000 (13%) had an "international" element.
For more information
European Commission – Family matters and successions:
Justice Directorate General Newsroom:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner: