Divorce is complicated enough. EU Law is complicated enough. Now combine the two and try to stay sane.
My recommendation: when having an "international divorce", opt for an International Family Mediation that will facilitate to reach an agreement and go through the legal procedures in all EU countries.
What is International Family Mediation
International Family Mediation is also Family Mediation (see the dedicated page on my website) with some specific rules which are due to the international setting. The two parties coming from or living in different EU countries try to settle their divorce through Mediation instead of the long and stressful litigation.
Though International Family Mediation may be used in case of couples divorcing without children too, the majority of cases involve minor children in relation to whom a decision has to be taken: where are they going to live, who will pay for what and how are they going to keep contact with both of their parents (and the list can go on).
In the international field, Mediation is usually carried out by a bi-national or bi-cultural Mediation team. Ideally, the team of Mediators consists of one female and one male mediator, one of whom comes from a legal, whereas the other comes from a psychological, social or educational profession. In addition to fundamental training and broad experience in Mediation, they have completed specialized training in the area of International Child Custody and Family Mediation.
For more information, I highly recommend MiKK's (International Mediation Centre for Family Conflict and Child Abduction) webpage and the short video below, presented by the Cross-Border Family Mediators (CBFM) network on International Family Mediation.
Where can you file for divorce or separation?
Which laws apply to your divorce or separation?
Recognition of divorces and legal separations abroad
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.
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.
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.
17 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, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.
In any of these 17 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 17 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, it is always advised to consult a specialised lawyer to see which laws will apply to your case and what the consequences would be.
No steps need to be taken to obtain recognition of a decision.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.
Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility, repealing Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000
(which has been applied since 21 June 2012 between Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia (since 11 February 2018), France, Germany, Greece (since 29 July 2015), Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania (since 22 May 2014), Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain)