Brussels, 7 June 2012
Lithuania is the 15th EU Member State to sign up to new rules helping international couples
Today, Lithuania announced its decision to join the enhanced cooperation procedure allowing international couples to select which country's law applies to their divorce. The EU adopted its first decision on enhanced cooperation two years ago (IP/10/347). It will enter into application end June 2012. Enhanced cooperation allows a group of at least nine member states to implement measures if all 27 Member States fail to reach an agreement. In this case, it allows the 14 participating countries1 and now Lithuania, to move forward with a Regulation that will give couples legal certainty and prevent a "rush to court" and forum shopping in divorces, while at the same time avoiding emotionally and financially costly proceedings.
"This first use of enhanced cooperation is a big step forward towards an EU that works for its citizens. 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, Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. “It is particularly encouraging to see that even before the entry into force of the Regulation, more countries are deciding to join the enhanced cooperation."
Following the Lithuanian request, the Commission must now, within four months, confirm its participation in the established enhanced cooperation concerning the law applicable to divorce and legal separation.
The Regulation on the law applicable to divorce aims to protect weaker partners during divorce disputes. International couples will be able to agree in advance which law would apply in the event of their divorce or legal separation. In case the couple cannot agree, judges will have a common formula for deciding which country's law applies. Couples will have more legal certainty, predictability and flexibility. This will help 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 solution will 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.
Under the EU Treaties, enhanced cooperation allows nine or more countries to move forward with a measure that is important but is blocked by a small minority of Member States. Other EU countries keep the right to join when they want (Article 331 TFEU).
EU governments adopted the Council Decision authorising enhanced cooperation on the law applicable to divorce and legal separation on 12 July 2010 (IP/10/917). It was published in the EU's Official Journal on 22 July 2010. The 14 participating countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain) then negotiated and, on 20 December 2010, adopted a Council Regulation that contains the detailed rules that will apply to international divorces (which was published in the EU's Official Journal on 29 December 2012). The Regulation will enter into force on 21 June 2012. It has no effect on national divorce or marriage laws.
Other Member States that wish to participate can do so at any time. Under the Lisbon Treaty, they must first notify the Council and the Commission. Lithuania is the first additional Member State to notify the institutions of its desire to participate in the enhanced cooperation.
For more information
European Commission – Family matters and successions:
Justice Directorate General Newsroom:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.