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Clear rules for 16 million international couples

Legal Affairs MEPs have approved new rules on Tuesday on property regimes for international married couples or registered partnerships. They will bring legal clarity in cases of divorce or death and bring an end to parallel and possibly conflicting proceedings in various member states, for instance on property or bank accounts. The rules would apply in 18 EU countries which were willing to join this initiative through an enhanced cooperation.

"It was about time that we had a European instrument for the property consequences of matrimonial regimes of registered partnerships. By now, international couples from all forms of marriages will benefit from legal security, a better access to justice and harmonised rules that will fit the nearly 16 million international couples who live in the EU", said rapporteur Jean-Marie Cavada (ALDE, FR).

The planned regulation would clarify which national court is competent to help them manage their property or distribute it between them in case of divorce, separation or death (jurisdiction rules), and which law shall apply when the laws of several countries could potentially apply to the case (rules on applicable law).

Cross-border recognition of judgments

In addition, the regulation would facilitate the recognition and enforcement of a judgment in one member state on property matters given in another member state.

Background information

According to the European Commission, there are currently around 16 million international couples in the EU, and the proposed rules would make it possible to avoid parallel legal proceedings in different countries with an estimated cost of €1.1 billion a year.

The eighteen member states participating in the enhanced cooperation are Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Croatia, Italia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Finland and Sweden. Other member states are free to join at any time after its adoption. According to the Council of the EU, Estonia announced its intention to take part in the cooperation after its adoption.

The non-participating Member States will continue to apply their national law (including their rules on private international law) to cross-border situations dealing with matrimonial property regimes and the property consequences of registered partnerships.

The Regulation does not affect the existence or validity of a marriage or registered partnership under national law or the recognition in one member state of a marriage concluded or a partnership registered in another member state. It also does not affect matters of social security or the entitlement to rights to pension in case of divorce or annulment of the registered partnership.

Next steps

Once Parliament has approved its opinion on the proposals in a plenary vote (on 23 June), they need to be formally adopted by the 18 participating member states, expected at the end of June. They can then be published in the Official Journal of the EU and will apply in full 30 months and 20 days after publication.

Procedure file (matrimonial property regimes)
Procedure file (property consequences of registered partnerships)
Council press release
Committee on Legal Affairs