Archive for the ‘divorce’ category

Cross-cultural EU divorces at 140,000 per year

March 25, 2010

The EU’s Justice Minister, Viviane Reding, said on Wednesday (24th March) that she does ‘not want people in the EU to be left to manage complicated international divorces alone.’ The EU’s annual divorce rate passed 1 million in 2005 and of those, 140,000 were cross-national divorces. Divorce is possible in all EU member states with the exception of Malta. This means that in any one year, two out of every thousand EU citizens successfully petition for a divorce. In contrast, nearly five out of a thousand get married.

Every year, an estimated 300,000 cross-cultural couples decide to get married in the EU and the EU’s Justice Commissioner has been trying to simplify the legal situation faced by those who file for divorce. Custody and property rights vary from country to country and couples frequently fight over which national laws apply in their particular case. EU countries are hesitant about European-wide harmonisation of laws, including those with more conservative divorce legislation (such as Ireland, Malta, Poland, etc.) as well as those with more liberal divorce rules.

The outcome is that ten countries (Austria, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovenia and Spain) have adopted the EU rules which allow the couples to choose which country’s laws should apply (a country with which at least one of the couple has a connection) or to allow the courts to decide when the couple is unable to agree. This will normally be the country where they usually live. Critics suggest that it is going to become ‘horrendously complicated’ to implement these rules.

Across the EU bloc the annual marriage rate has been increasing from an EU low of 4.85 marriages per one thousand people in 2003 to 5.27 marriages per one thousand people in 2007. It seems slightly ironic, therefore, that whilst acknowledging the complicated nature of cross-national divorces, the EU Commission has a laissez-faire attitude to those people in the EU who are left to manage complicated cross-national marriages (some of them encouraged by the freedom to travel to and live in other EU countries).