New European Union regulations clarifying the rules applicable to property regimes for international married couples or registered partnerships apply in 18 EU countries – including Bulgaria – as of January 29, the European Commission said.
The regulations establish clear rules in cases of divorce or death and bring an end to parallel and possibly conflicting proceedings in various EU countries, for instance on property or bank accounts.
In short, it will bring more legal clarity for international couples, the Commission said.
There are about 16 million international couples living in the EU. International couples are either married or live in a registered partnership and are made up of two people of different nationalities, or live in a member state other than their own, or own property in a member state other than their own.
Every year, a number of international couples divorces or separates, or one of the partners dies.
“The entry into application of these regulations is good news for the growing number of international couples in Europe,” European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans said.
“This is about giving certainty to thousands of European couples about what happens to their property if they divorce or one of them dies. I am confident that these regulations will help many European couples manage such difficult times.”
Vera Jourová, EU Justice Commissioner said: “These new rules will make it easier and cheaper to divide joint assets and provide some relief to people in difficult circumstances.
“More than 16 million international couples will benefit from clear procedures in case of divorce or death of a partner. They will be able to save around 350 million euro each year in legal costs,” Jourová said.
“I encourage the remaining member states to join the enhanced cooperation for the sake of all international couples across the EU,” she said.
The majority of the EU’s international couples is covered by the regulations, as the 18 member states where they are in force represent almost 70 per cent of the EU’s population.
The Commission said that the new regulations will facilitate the recognition and enforcement in one member state of a judgment given in another member state.
They also clarify which courts should deal with matters concerning the couples’ property and which national law should apply to such matters. This will provide legal certainty to couples as well as cut down the costs of legal proceedings, the Commission said.
Each EU country has different rules on marriage and registered partnerships. Marriage is a legal institution recognised in all 28 EU countries.
In nine countries, it is open to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples: the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Denmark, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom (England and Wales), Spain, Sweden and Portugal.
Registered partnerships are recognised in 18 EU countries (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Slovenia, some regions of Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom).
In Sweden, marriage for same-sex partners has been recognised since 2009 when registered partnerships were abolished.
Seventeen EU countries allow same-sex couples to register partnerships. Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands allow both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to register their partnership.