New EU rules for international divorces to enter into force in 2012
Dec 20, 2010, 15:15 GMT
Brussels - European Union ministers gave their final approval Monday to new rules governing international divorces, allowing the procedure to enter into force in a majority of the bloc's members by mid-2012, officials said.
The decision was the last step needed for launch of the bloc's first-ever 'enhanced cooperation' - a mechanism that allows some EU members to launch joint initiatives even if others do not want to join them.
The EU had been grappling for years with the question of which legal system should apply when an international couple divorces, especially when they live in a third country. But Sweden blocked an EU-wide deal, fearing it would limit its liberal divorce laws.
To break the deadlock, the new divorce rules will only apply to 14 of the EU's 27 members, allowing Sweden and other non-participating states to carry on with their separate systems.
The fourteen countries involved are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.
According to EU figures, there were more than 1 million divorces in the bloc in 2007, of which 140,000 had an international flavour. Cases are frequently blocked as couples and judges wrangled over which national law to use: the husband's; the wife's; the country where the marriage was celebrated; or the couple's last country of residence.
The new rules are expected to give clear guidelines on the matter, allowing international couples to agree on the appropriate jurisdiction themselves or leaving judges to do the work for them.