Types of divorce in Belgium
There are two types of divorce that can be obtained in Belgium: divorce on specific grounds or mutual consent. If both spouses reach an agreement about ending their marriage they can obtain a divorce by mutual consent. This option will only be available for couples that were married for at least two years and that reached an agreement regarding common property and accounts, each party’s residence, custody of children and alimony arrangements. Each of the spouses must be 20 years old.(Section 275 of the Civil Code).
Divorce on specific grounds in Belgium
This type of divorce is based on the violation by one of the spouses of one of the obligations resulting from marriage. The other spouse must be able to prove that the violation was made with intent. According to the Belgian legislation, specific ground for a divorce are considered adultery, excesses, physical or mental cruelty and de facto separation. Divorce on specific grounds does not require the agreement of both spouses and can be imposed on one spouse by the other based on the deliberate failure to comply with the obligations arising from the marriage.
De facto separation can be considered a reason for divorce since a long separation is an indication of the irremediable failure of the marriage. The spouses’ separation for more than 12 months can be considered a ground for divorce since the irremediable nature of the broken marriage results from a situation in which the resumption of conjugal life cannot be expected.
Legal effects of divorce in Belgium
Personal relations in Belgium: The two spouses will no longer be bound by marriage and therefore the ex-spouse may no longer use the name of the other, ceases to be his/her heir and from that moment on may remarry.
Division of property in Belgium: Since all common property must be dissolved, the goods have to be liquidated. In the case of divorce based on the notion of fault, only the spouse obtaining the divorce keeps the contractual institutions made in his favor. When the divorce is pronounced on the basis of de facto separation, the spouse who has obtained the divorce is considered the faulty party and therefore loses any benefits granted by the other spouse.
Children: Both spouses must contribute to the raising and education of the children. This contribution is ruled by the courts and lasts until the children reach their majority or until their education in completed.
The obligation to pay maintenance to the other spouse: There are times when the Court in Belgium may grant the spouse who has obtained the divorce an allowance from the other spouse’s assets and income, which should allow him/her to live under conditions equivalent to those enjoyed while living together.
Divorce procedure in Belgium
The spouse requesting the divorce must fill in a petition signed either by both spouses, in case of divorce by mutual consent, or by a spouse and a lawyer or notary. If the spouses reached an agreement and they can prove they lived apart for more than 6 months the divorce will be granted immediately, otherwise they must appear again after an interval of three months.