New divorce rules for Europe's cross-border couples

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Take a German and a Frenchwoman who marry in Italy, move to Portugal and then split up: under new EU rules on cross-border marriage adopted Monday the couple will be able to choose where to divorce.

The rules, to be applied by 14 of the European Union's 27 member states in mid-2012, will enable an Austrian-Bulgarian couple living in Slovenia, for example, or a Hungarian couple resident in Brussels to choose which country's rules apply in case of separation.

Of the more than one million divorces in the European Union in 2007, around 140,000, or 13 percent, concerned couples of different nationalities, the European Commission said.

The new legislation will enable couples with different nationalities, those living apart in different countries, or those living together in a nation other than their home country, to decide which country's laws apply to their divorce.

"International couples can encounter arbitrary legal problems that turn the tragedy of divorce into a financial and emotional disaster," said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding.

"I do not want people in the EU to be left to manage complicated international divorces alone. I want them to have clear rules."

Currently 20 EU countries determine which country's laws apply based on nationality and long-term residence, while seven apply their own domestic law.

The 14 countries that will apply the rules are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.

Courts will have a common formula for deciding which country's laws apply when couples cannot agree themselves.

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