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Updated : 06/09/2016

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Divorce and legal separation

National laws in EU countries will determine the reasons you can file for divorce or legal separation, and the procedures involved. The rules vary greatly from one EU country to another.

However, a number of EU rules help determine which courts have jurisdiction and which law applies in cases involving two or more EU countries – for instance, because you and your spouse live in different countries or have different nationalities.

Where can you file for divorce or separation?

You can request a divorce or legal separation together with your partner as a joint application, or alone.

You can file your request with the courts in the country where:

  • you and your spouse live
  • you last lived together – provided one of you still lives there
  • one of you lives – provided you are filing a joint application
  • your spouse lives
  • you live, if:
    • you have lived there for at least 6 months immediately before filing
    • and you are a national of that country.

    If you are not a national, you can file only if you have lived there for at least 1 year immediately before filing.

  • both you and your spouse are nationals.

The first court where the request is filed that meets these conditions has powers to rule on your divorce.

The court with powers to transform a legal separation into a divorce is the court in the EU country that ruled on the legal separation - as long as this is in line with that country's rules.

The court with powers to rule on divorce may also decide on issues relating to parental responsibility if the child lives in that country.

Which laws apply to your divorce or separation?

Are two or more EU countries involved - for instance because you and your spouse have different nationalities or live in an EU country other than your own?

The law that governs your divorce is not necessarily the law of the country where you file for divorce.

16 EU countries have adopted a single set of rules to determine which law should apply to cross-border divorces. These countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.

In any of these 16 countries, you can agree with your spouse to apply the divorce laws of:

  • the country where you and your spouse live
  • the country where you last lived together – if one of you still lives there
  • the country either of you is a national or
  • the country where you are filing for divorce

If you don't agree with your spouse, courts in these 16 countries will apply the laws of:

  • the country where you and your spouse live
  • failing that, of the country where you last lived together – provided you still lived together there 1 year before going to court
  • failing that, of the country you're both nationals of
  • failing that, the country where you are filing for divorce

If you are applying for divorce in another EU country, consult a specialised lawyer to see which laws will apply to your case and what the consequences would be.

Recognition of divorces and legal separations abroad

A divorce or a legal separation granted in one EU country is recognised automatically by other EU countries: there is no need to go through any additional procedure.

Exception – Denmark

EU rules on divorce and legal separation – for instance on jurisdiction and recognition – do not apply to Denmark.

Get details on divorce proceedings country by country:

Choose country:

Sample story

Divorce without mutual consent: jurisdiction in the country of the couple's last common usual residence

An Irish-French married couple, Jack and Marie, lived together in Ireland.

Jack found an interesting and well-paid job in France and moved there. One month after starting to work in France, Jack decided to file for divorce in Ireland.

This was possible because the couple last lived together in Ireland and Marie was still resident there.

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Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain

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Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain

Retour au texte en cours.