Divorce Lawyers in Belgium
Divorce in BelgiumUpdated on Monday 21st January 2019
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Getting a divorce in Belgium is not complicated, however, there are a set of differences to be noted by the individuals depending on the conditions for the divorce or rather whether or not this step is a mutual one or it is requested only by one of the parties. It should also be noted that the separation of a married couple is also possible without the involvement of the court, however, in this de facto separation, the distribution of assets will not take place legally and the alimony duties will not take place as when they would have been directed by court – which may be important for some parents.
Our divorce lawyers in Belgium can assist spouses who have decided to end a marriage and need to initiate the legal proceedings for annulling the legal union. Whether it is separation or divorce, our lawyers will treat your case with understanding and, when children are involved, by prioritizing their best interests.
What are the 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 who can reach an agreement regarding common property and accounts, each party’s residence, custody of children and alimony arrangements. This is considered a simple type of divorce and the individuals need to draw up a prior settlement that will outline the manner in which the property rights will be distributed, how the residence arrangements will change, how the remaining joint property will be as well as how the children will be taken care of (when applicable and only for the children of both spouses).
In case of a divorce on specific grounds, the parties file for the annulment of the marriage based on the fact that their union suffered an irretrievable breakdown and it is impossible to continue the cohabitation. This can also be the case in de facto separations where the separation has been going on for more than six months. When the separation was for less than six months, the two individuals are required to take a period to reflect on their decision and, when reconciliation is not possible, file for divorce a second time. When the spouses have been living separately for more than one year, the application for divorce can be filed only by one of the parties.
One of our divorce lawyers in Belgium can give you more information on how to proceed, based on whether or not you have been separated for some time before taking the decision to divorce and, more importantly, based on whether or not this is a mutual or unilateral decision.
How is a divorce on specific grounds treated 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 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.
What are the legal effects of divorce in Belgium?
A set of legal consequences of changes are natural after the divorce is finalized. Below, our divorce lawyers in Belgium present the most important aspects:
The change of the legal relationship: 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 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. In case of divorce by mutual consent, as stated above the two parties need to present their mutual agreement on the distribution of assets and the manner in which the children will be raised from that point on. If mutual divorce is the method chosen by you and your spouse, one of our divorce lawyers in Belgium can help you draw up this mutual agreement.
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 is 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. The maintenance payment cannot be granted to the spouse who was found guilty for the irretrievable breakdown if the marriage or who was found guilty of having committed acts of violence against the other party. When the court rules in favor of this payment, its value cannot be higher than one-third of the income of the individual making the payment. Another important detail is that the payment period is to be equal to the duration of the marriage.
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.
What are the legal conditions for marriage annulment?
In some cases, the marriage is simply annulled as per the Civil Law. In these cases, a breach of the statutory provisions has taken place, despite the verifications performed prior to the marriage by the registrar. These special cases can include the following:
- - the spouse is a minor (under 18 years of age);
- - there was no mutual consent;
- - the marriage is a sham: the intention of at least one of the individuals was not to enter a union but to obtain certain advantages such as residency in Belgium;
- - the marriage is forced: when the consent of at least one of the spouses was not freely given but rather it was forced or the individual was threatened to take this step;
- - clandestine marriage or bigamy;
- - lack of authority on the part of the official who performed the marriage.
One of our divorce lawyers in Belgium can give you complete information about these specific situations. The annulment of a marriage is retroactive, however, in those cases where only one of the spouses married in good faith, the marriage will continue to produce effects but only for the benefit of the spouse who acted in good faith. When children are involved, the marriage will retain its effects even if none of the spouses acted in good faith.
The petition for divorce or legal separation in case of an irretrievable breakage of the marriage is filed at the Court of First Instance in the area where the last marital residence of the spouses was located. One of our attorneys in Belgium can help you lodge an application for divorce.
Please contact our team of lawyers in Belgium for detailed information and personalized legal advice.