About International marriage

A marriage is a civil status record. The requirements and the recognition of this record depends on the country and treaties that are made with this country. To use this record in Belgium you can check the requirements according to your country on the following site, keep in mind that an expert knows the details of these requirements: http://diplomatie.belgium.be/en/services/legalisation_of_documents/search_criteria/ Our experts can guide you in this process.
In Belgium a marriage can be performed if one of the future spouses:
  • is a Belgian citizen at the time of the ceremony
  • has had his or her place of residence in Belgium for more than three months
Both persons have to be 18 years old. You will have to provide the following documents:
  • Passport or ID
  • Proof of nationality;
  • Birth certificate;
  • Prenuptial agreement (if there is one);
  • Proofs of adress;
  • Proofs of civil status;
  • Proof of residence
The Registrar may not refuse to perform the marriage on the grounds of the mere fact that a foreigner is present in the country illegally. Foreigners must satisfy the marriage conditions of the country in which they have nationality. In Belgium, marriage between two persons of the same sex is possible as long as one of the partners is Belgian or has been habitually resident in Belgium for more than three months. Same sex marriage isn't recognised in all European Countries, Germany considers a married gay couple as a registered partnership.
  1. When you are a third country resident coming to BelgiumUITLEG
  2. When you are a member of the European union coming to Belgium A. You are married
Marriages from before 10/01/2014
  1. Wedding contract concluded? In a wedding contract it is possible to opt the applicable law: You may choose for your property relations and marriage contract to be subject to the law of the country of nationality of either of the spouses or of the country where either of the spouses is domiciled or resides. They may choose the applicable law either before entering into marriage or during the marriage (Art. 52 para. 1 of the Act on the Private International Law).  When  no choice was made, go to 2
  2. When you don't have a contract with your spouse, the applicable law of the contract is the joint nationality. In the case you don't have the same nationality as your spouse go to 3.
  3. When you and your spouse don't have the same nationality the first rule is to apply the law of the first marital residence
Marriages as from 10/01/2014 New European rules were implemented by the belgian government: The spouses may agree to designate the law applicable to divorce and legal separation provided that it is one of the following laws:
  1. The law of the State where the spouses are habitually resident at the time the agreement is concluded;
  2. or  the law of the State where the spouses were last habitually resident, in so far as one of them still resides there at the time the agreement is concluded;
  3. or  the law of the State of nationality of either spouse at the time the agreement is concluded;
  4. or  the law of the forum.

The law of the forum is a legal term to refer to the laws of the jurisdiction in which a legal action is brought.If the law of the forum so provides, the spouses may also designate the law applicable before the court during the course of the proceeding. In that event, such designation shall be recorded in court in accordance with the law of the forum

Your marital status can influence your personal financial situation deeply. From the moment you are married, you can claim several tax benefits in Belgium. However your marital status and specific marital property regime defines the way your marital property is handled in marriage, in divorce or when one of the spouses dies. When your spouse has a big risk on insolvency, by exemple your spouse is an entrepreneur, you can avoid the risks by choosing the right contract or estate regime. The several types of marital status in Belgium are:
  • Unmarried
  • Married
  • Registered Partnership
  • Cohabitation
  • Divorced

Depending on your circumstances the one or the other can be in your favour. Schermafbeelding 2016-12-29 om 12.18.48 Schermafbeelding 2016-12-29 om 12.19.00
Spouses who have not concluded a marriage contract are, as of the day of their civil marriage, subject to the statutory regime, which is one of (separation of assets with) community only of the property acquired after the marriage has begun. This regime divides the assets of the spouses into three estates: The estate of the first spouse and the estate of the second spouse and the common estate. The two separate estates of the spouses with all of the assets that they owned prior to the marriage, increased by all assets acquired via an inheritance or via a gift, or the assets that come in replacement of these assets (Art. 1399 - 1404 CC Civil Code). Certain assets are separate regardless of the time of acquisition: this includes e.g. the accessories of each spouse´s own immovable property, clothing and objects for personal use, right to a pension, etc. (for a complete list see Articles 1400 and 1401 CC). The common estate consists of all earnings, both the professional income and the earnings from each spouse´s own assets, as well as the assets acquired for valuable consideration during the marriage (Art. 1405 CC). However there are several property Regimes:

- the regime of communal estate of husband and wife

Estate belonging to the husband common estate estate belonging to wife

- the regime of separate estates

Estate belonging tot the husband property in joint ownership estate belonging to the wife

Are there legal assumptions concerning the attribution of property? All assets of which it cannot be proven that they are the property of one of the spouses shall be regarded as common (Art. 1405 CC). Spouses can include a list of assets in the marriage contract. This list applies between the spouses until proof of the contrary, but cannot be invoked against third parties.
Each of the spouses can dispose of his/her own assets (Art. 1425 CC), with the exception of the family home, which may never be sold or encumbered by a mortgage by just one of the spouses, without the consent of the other spouse (Art. 215 CC). The common property must be administered in the interest of the family. As a general rule it applies that either of the spouses can administer the common property. For example, the day-to-day actions (e.g. actions relating to the housekeeping and the upbringing of the children) can be taken separately by the spouses. In certain cases, exclusive administration is possible (e.g. when one of the spouses exercises an independent profession - Art. 1417, para. 1 CC). For other matters of greater importance such as entering into a mortgage loan, both spouses must act jointly (Art. 1417, para. 2, Art. 1418 and 1419 CC). If the consent of a spouse is absent, the legal act can be declared invalid. However, the rights of the third parties are protected if the latter acted in good faith (Art. 1422 and 1423 CC). spacer height="20px"] If a spouse can administer the common property alone, the other spouse is bound to respect the action (Art. 1416 CC). If the spouses have to act jointly, consent of the other spouse is necessary (Art. 1417, para. 2 CC).
Debts from before the marriage and the debts deriving from inheritances and gifts received during the marriage are separate (Art. 1406 CC). In addition, inter alia debts entered into by one of the spouses in the exclusive interest of his/her own estate are also separate (for a complete list see Art. 1407 CC). Common are e.g. the debts entered into by one of the spouses for the purposes of housekeeping and raising the children (for a complete list see Art. 1408 CC). As a general rule it applies that each spouse is liable for his/her own debts with his/her own estate (Art. 1409 CC). In the event that it concerns a debt entered into by both spouses, it can be recovered both from the separate estate of each of the spouses and from the common property (Art. 1413 CC).
A marriage contract concluded before the solemnisation of the marriage enters into effect as of the solemnisation of the marriage (Art. 1391 CC). Spouses who have not concluded a marriage contract are, as of the day of their civil marriage, subject to the statutory regime, which is one of (separation of assets with) community only of the property acquired after the marriage has begun. The spouses can, by mutual agreement, amend (modify or change) their matrimonial property regime during the marriage by authentic instrument. See 2.1 and 3.4. The spouses have the possibility of choosing a matrimonial property regime in a marriage contract. As alternative forms of matrimonial property regime, Belgian law provides the separation of property and the universal community of property. In addition, the spouses dispose of the possibility of regulating their matrimonial property at their discretion, in so far as they do not stipulate anything that conflicts with public order or good morals (Art. 1387 CC). The separation of property regime (Art. 1466 - 1469 CC) knows only two estates: the estate of the one spouse and the estate of the other spouse. The income of each of the spouses remains separate, which means that they can each freely dispose of their earnings. Nevertheless, this does not mean that spouses who opted for separation of property cannot own anything jointly. However, the assets which they dispose of jointly are not "common", but rather "undivided". This means that the rules of the general law concerning co-ownership apply (Art. 577-2 CC). The specific status of the family home is also recognised in this regime. In the universal community of property regime (Art. 1453 CC) There is virtually only one common property. Regardless of how the assets were acquired, they will always belong to the two spouses jointly. The spouses can, by mutual agreement, amend (modify or change) their matrimonial property regime during the marriage. The amendment may not be in conflict with mandatory rules of law and may not harm the interests of the family or third parties. If one of the spouses so requests, the act amending the matrimonial property regime is preceded by a notarial inventory of all movable and immovable property and of the debts of the spouses. A notarial inventory is required if the amendment of the matrimonial property regime results in the liquidation of the previous regime (Art. 1394 CC).
Since 1 September 2011 there exists in Belgium a central register of marriage contracts. This digital register is managed by the Royal Federation of Belgian Notaries. All marriage contracts and acts of amendment (modification of the matrimonial property regime or change to another regime) that are drafted by a Belgian civil law notary are registered in the central register of marriage contracts as of 1 September 2011. The central register of marriage contracts does not contain the acts themselves, but only metadata. For example, the register indicates when the persons involved concluded a marriage contract or act of amendment and what matrimonial property regime was chosen. The details of the parties as well as the identification of the person who has drawn up the act or has custody of it are also registered. The act and its actual content thus remain confidential. Firstly, civil law notaries, but also bailiffs may consult the register, among others. Other public authorities too may have access if the consultation is necessary for the execution of their legal missions. Private individuals may only consult the data of the acts that relate to themselves.  

About International Divorce

When you file for a divorce on of the questions will be, where do I have to file for a divorce. The European Union has a regulation (EC) No 2201/2003- jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of matrimonial and parental judgements. This is a single legal instrument that sets out: - Rules determining which court is responsible for dealing with matrimonial matters and parental responsibility in disputes involving more than one country -Rules making it easier to recognise and enforce judgments issued in one EU country in another - a procedure to settle cases in which a parent abducts a child from one EU country and takes them to another. It does not deal with substantive family law matters. These are the responsibility of individual EU countries.
  1. I 'm a national of a third country UITLEG
  2. I'm a national of a European country
The applicable law to divorce and legal separation is regulated in the EU Regulation 1259/2010 or the Rome III Regulation, valid in 15 countries. The regulation dictates which law should be used in cross-border divorces, while which courts should be used is determined by the Brussels II Regulation (see above), which is valid for all European Union countries, except Denmark. The following 14 States are participating to the pact : Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain. The applicable law is determined based on a number of criteria. If a higher ranked criterion is not applicable the evaluation moves one lower. The criteria are:
  • The choice of the couple (choosing from the law of one of their nationalities or their (previous) place of       residence, or the law of the court seized
  • The place of their residence
  • Their last place of residence (maximum 1 year ago, 1 of the spouses should still live there)
  • Their common nationality
  • The law of the court seized (lex fori)
In case a separation is not possible within the determined law according to the scheme (for example in case of diverse of a same sex couple), the law of court seized should apply. The regulation is also applicable to legal separation and conversion of legal separation to divorce.
  • Divorce by mutual consent
The most ideal case is when the partners agree on everything.  Then there is the possibility to divorce by mutual consent, this can be straightforward, but requires that the couple comes to an agreement on division of the marital property, assets, etc.
  • Divorce citing irreconcilable differences
In Belgian law there isn't a fault in the divorce, in most cases, there is no point in blaming the other person for the divorce. If an agreement cannot be reached you can choose for a divorce citing irreconcilable differences. The welfare of the children has to be kept in mind at all times in case of divorce. Mediation (bemiddeling / médiation) is strongly encouraged by experts and courts. You can file your request with the courts in the country where:
  •  you and your spouse live
  •  you last lived together – provided one of you still lives there one of you lives – provided you are filing a joint application
  • your spouse lives
  • you live, if:
  • you have lived there at least 6 months immediately before filing and are a national of that country.
  • If you are not a national, you can file only if you have lived there at least 1 year immediately before filing both you and your spouse are nationals.
The court with powers to rule on your divorce is the first court where the request is filed (if it meets the above conditions). Any transformations in the future will be handled by the same court in the future. The process is typically lengthy. If the evidence presented is of a separation (at least six or 12 months) then the couple must plead their case on two separate occasions. These may be some months apart. If other evidence for irreconcilable differences is given, the case may be wrapped up in one session. Both parties have the right to appeal a divorce judgement. The appeal must be lodged within one month. A further appeal to the Supreme Court must be lodged within three months. The judge has the power to institute a temporary arrangement on an emergency basis. As an example, if one parent is refusing to pay child maintenance in the interim and the children are at risk of being evicted from their home, the court can intervene. These arrangements are not permanent and can be modified before the final settlement is arranged.
  • Necessary documents
The court may request whatever evidence it deems necessary. Following documents will normally be required:
  •  Identification;
  • Residency permit information;
  • Formal petition for divorce;
  • Agreement on how to deal with issues arising;
  • Pre-nuptial agreement , if this is the case;
  • Income, property and tax information;
  • Information about any children;
  • A parenting plan, if there are children involved.
  • Division of property
Belgium allows spouses to select from three systems of marital property or to create their own by writing a prenuptial agreement. See international marriage. The property of the spouses will be divided in accordance to the regime that has been chosen.
The common assets have to be liquidated and have to be divide between the two parties. How this proceeds depends on the applicable matrimonial property regime. - The regime of communal estate of husband and wife Estate belonging to the husband common estate estate belonging to wife - The regime of separate estates Estate belonging tot the husband property in joint ownership estate belongingtowife Upon dissolution of the statutory regime, the assets of the common property automatically end up in a “post-community” joint ownership, to which - prior to the liquidation and division - the rules of the general law concerning co-ownership apply (Art. 577-2 CC). For the liquidation and final division of the matrimonial property, the exact composition of the three estates (cf. question 2.1.) must be determined (Art. 1427 - 1449 CC). Upon dissolution of the universal community of property regime, the assets of the common property also automatically end up in a “post-community” joint ownership. In the event of dissolution of a regime of separation of property, one merely has to proceed with the liquidation/division of any joint assets. Within this framework, the Judicial Code provides statutory rules for a (judicial) liquidation/ division (Art. 1205 - 1224 C. Jud. Judicial Code).
Alimony (onderhoudsgeld / pension alimentaire) is a payment by the spouse with greater wealth or income to the spouse with less. In Belgium, it is intended to ensure that both can continue to live safely and healthily. It is separate from any child support.

If your right to stay in Belgium is a spousal permit (eg. tied to their job) you will have to apply for a permit in your own name or leave the country.

Other residency rights are unaffected by divorce. If you need to reapply for a permit, read our complete guide to Belgian visas and permits.

Parents are expected to come to a mutual agreement on where their children will live. The place of residence must be registered with the local council. Both parents must support their children, and the non-resident parent is expected to pay child support until the children are 18. In some cases this means that it isn't allowed to take your children abroad without the permission of the other parent.

Children have the right to be heard by the judge and contribute to the plans made on their behalf, to the extent that they are able.

A divorce or a legal separation granted in one EU country is recognised by other EU countries without any special procedure being required. Recognition and enforcement between EU Member States. A judgment given in a Member State shall be recognized in the other Member States without any special procedure being required. A judgment relating to a divorce, legal separation or marriage annulment shall not be recognized:

(a) if such recognition is manifestly contrary to the public policy of the Member State in which recognition is sought; (b) where it was given in default of appearance, if the respondent was not served with the document which instituted the proceedings or with an equivalent document in sufficient time and in such a way as to enable the respondent to arrange for his or her defence unless it is determined that the respondent has accepted the judgment unequivocally; (c) if it is irreconcilable with a judgment given in proceedings between the same parties in the Member State in which recognition is sought; or (d) if it is irreconcilable with an earlier judgment given in another Member State or in a non-Member State between the same parties, provided that the earlier judgment fulfils the conditions necessary for its recognition in the Member State in which recognition is sought.

A judgment relating to parental responsibility shall not be recognized:

(a) if such recognition is manifestly contrary to the public policy of the Member State in which recognition is sought taking into account the best interests of the child; (b) if it was given, except in case of urgency, without the child having been given an opportunity to be heard, in violation of fundamental principles of procedure of the Member State in which recognition is sought; (c) where it was given in default of appearance if the person in default was not served with the document which instituted the proceedings or with an equivalent document in sufficient time and in such a way as to enable that person to arrange for his or her defence unless it is determined that such person has accepted the judgment unequivocally; (d) on the request of any person claiming that the judgment infringes his or her parental responsibility, if it was given without such person having been given an opportunity to be heard; (e) if it is irreconcilable with a later judgment relating to parental responsibility given in the Member State in which recognition is sought; (f) if it is irreconcilable with a later judgment relating to parental responsibility given in another Member State or in the non-Member State of the habitual residence of the child provided that the later judgment fulfils the conditions necessary for its recognition in the Member State in which recognition is sought. or (g) if the procedure with respect to the placement of a child in another Member State has not been complied with.

This depends on the nature of the debts. Each spouse is separately liable for his/her own debts which remain after the division of the matrimonial property. The two spouses are jointly liable for the common debts that remain after the division of the matrimonial property (Art. 1439 - 1441 CC).

What happens when one of the partners dies?

In terms of the matrimonial property law: if there are no other clauses contained in a marriage contract or amending act, the common property is distributed fifty-fifty. The surviving spouse thus has in any case one-half of the common property in full ownership. In terms of the inheritance law, the other half of the common property also goes in full ownership to the surviving spouse if there are no children. If there are children, then the other half goes in bare ownership to the children. Nevertheless, the surviving spouse maintains the usufruct on this half of the common assets. It is also possible to include specific clauses in the marriage contract that ensure that the surviving spouse is favoured after the death (Art. 1457 - 1460 CC). The own property of the deceased are the assets the person has on the day of the marriage itself: bankaccounts, shares, real estate,… The surviving spouse gets the usufruct on the property that is qualified as the own property of the deceased. He/she can use the assets for life. The surviving spouse is also specially protected with respect to the inheritance law. Thus a minimum share (reserved portion) of the inheritance obligatorily goes to the surviving spouse, to the children and to the father and the mother of the deceased. However, the surviving spouse always receives at least the usufruct of one-half of the assets of the inheritance. This half includes at least the usufruct of the real property that served as the common residence and of the household assets present therein (Art. 745bis and 915bis CC).
For registered partnerships (in Belgian law: cohabitation légale/wettelijke samenwoning), each of the partners retains the assets of which he/she can prove the ownership. An undivided estate is created that is composed of the assets of which neither of the two partners can prove the ownership (Art. 1478 CC). In the case of unregistered partnerships (In Belgian law: cohabitation de fait/feitelijke samenwoning), there exist only the two separate estates of the partners. For each debt that is entered into by one of the registered partners for the purpose of the cohabitation, the other partner is also jointly and severally liable (Art. 1477 CC). This is not the case for an unregistered partnership. Upon the death of one of the partners, the surviving partner from a registered partnership receives the usufruct of the real estate that serves the family as common residence including the household assets (Art. 745octies CC). This is not the case for an unregistered partnership. Registered partners can regulate their partnership by means of an agreement. In conformity with Article 1478 in fine CC, such agreements must be established by notarial act.

Making a prenuptial agreement?

A prenup contains all the rules governing the ownership and use of assets during the marriage and the settlement of these assets in the event that the marriage is dissolved. A prenup takes effect on the day of the marriage ceremony and expires on the death of one of the spouses, in case of divorce, legal separation. Spouses who reside abroad and who wish to change their matrimonial property regime under Belgian law must appear before a Belgian notary to effect any such changes. You have to check which law is applicable on your contract and if this meets the necessary requirements in Belgium.