Cross-border Divorces Made Easier in European Union


Divorce attorneys in Pasadena will find the divorce laws of the European Union interesting. One of the benefits of the European Union is that it allows people greater freedom of movement. These days, approximately 350,000 cross-border marriages occur each year. Someone from Lithuania might marry a Spaniard, or a British subject could marry a French citizen. Of course, cross-border marriages sometimes require cross-border divorces.

Each year, approximately 40 percent of cross-border marriages fail, requiring divorces to be carried out under a cloud of uncertainty and complication. Previously, cross-border couples had to decide which country's legal system to use in order to agree to how their assets would be split up, but a new arrangement now is in place. This arrangement allows each person to decide which nation's laws should be applied. For example, an Italian-Spanish couple living in France can finalize their divorce following Italian, Spanish or French laws. If the couple can't agree, the laws of the couple's country of residence will be applied by default.

This new arrangement is intended to put an end to some of the uncertainty of cross-border divorces.

"I do not want people in the EU to be left to manage complicated international divorces alone," says Vivien Redding, EU Justice Commissioner. "I want them to have clear rules so that they always know where they stand."

Critics think that the new rules might lead to added bureaucratic complexity. The EU already is not known for its bureaucratic simplicity. Advocates, however, point to several benefits; for example, the practice of "divorce shopping," where a person tries to gain advantage by looking for the jurisdiction that offers the most favorable terms, will no longer be an issue. Advocates of the new arrangement also hope that marriages may be saved.

"Because so much money is at stake, people rush to proceedings sooner than they would need to, rather than seeking to save their marriage through mediation," London-based lawyer David Hodson says.

Whether the EU nationals are for or against the new arrangement, it is certain that EU divorce attorneys will continue to see to millions of divorces in years to come. Nothing can make the difficulty of divorce easier, but the new arrangement might ease some of the difficulty of a European union.