AlphabiolabsHousing Law WeekBerkeley Lifford Hall Accountancy Services

14 EU states ‘go it alone’ on divorce reform for ‘international couples’

United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland opt out of arrangement

Justice ministers meeting in Luxembourg last week have reached agreement allowing couples of different European nationalities to choose which divorce laws will apply to them.

Where the spouses are from different countries, living apart in different countries, or are from the same country but living abroad, they will be able to choose which nation's laws should apply to their divorce. The agreement will apply where one of a divorcing couple has a connection with any of the following states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.

An EU official commented:

"[The agreement] would increase flexibility and autonomy by giving spouses a possibility to choose the applicable law to their divorce or legal separation and it would set clear rules for cases where no law has been chosen.

"If we were to wait for everybody to come on board, we could have been waiting forever."

The European Parliament has still to legislate upon the arrangement but it is thought that the momentum behind the scheme makes it likely that it will be passed.

The United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have not acceded to the proposed scheme.

Ann Thomas, a specialist international solicitor with The International Family Law Group commented:

" This is an excellent development as it makes it easier and clearer for us English lawyers to advise clients involved in European cross-border divorce cases.  We will now better know which law will be applied in which countries.  It does however open up a significant gulf between the 14 enhanced cooperation countries and the remaining EU states in which the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the Scandinavian countries are at the forefront."

To view the current formal status of the procedure (which does not reflect last week's agreement), click here.