This page is now obsolete. The original language version has been updated and moved to the European e-Justice Portal.
Divorce can be obtained only by means of a court ruling on the basis of an application by a spouse or a joint application by spouses. In order to obtain a divorce, it must be established that the marriage has disintegrated or failed. A marriage is considered to have failed if no marital cohabitation exists and the spouses cannot be expected to restore cohabitation.
In order to obtain a divorce spouses have to reach mutual agreement with regard to custody over a child born within the marriage, maintenance for the child and division of joint property. If the spouses fail to reach agreement, these claims are settled in court concurrently with the divorce claim.
The grounds for divorce are exhaustively provided for in the Latvian Civil Code under the Division “Family Law”.
Firstly, divorce can be obtained if spouses have been living separately for at least three years. Section 73 of the Civil Code explains the circumstances under which spouses can be considered to be living separately, namely, if the spouses do not share a household and one of the spouses refuses outright to maintain a joint household whereby the possibility of marital cohabitation is denied. Separate occupation by spouses of a common dwelling does not necessarily signify a joint household. Therefore, where there is an actual separation, the marriage is considered to have failed.
Secondly, a marriage may be also dissolved when the spouses have been living separately for less than three years where:
It should be noted that, where the court believes that the marriage can still be preserved in the above circumstances, divorce proceedings may be stayed for up to six months for the purposes of a possible reconciliation.
Thirdly, there may also be instances where one of spouses claims for a divorce before the three-year term of living separately has been completed and the claim for divorce is based on grounds other than the three listed above. In such a case, divorce may be granted only if both spouses agree to the divorce. Where one spouse does not agree to divorce, the court will not dissolve the marriage before the spouses have lived separately for 3 years. Moreover, in such a case the court has an obligation to stay the divorce proceedings until the above-mentioned period of 3 years has elapsed.
It should be noted that the court may refuse to grant a divorce in exceptional circumstances where the preservation of a marriage is necessary for specific reasons relating to the interests of a minor born within the marriage.
As soon as a judgment on the dissolution of marriage comes into effect, the rights and obligations connected to a legal relationship between spouses cease to exist. When the marriage is dissolved, a person may enter into another marriage. However, divorce can bestow new obligations and rights on the former spouses.
The Civil Code prescribes that a spouse who has changed his/her surname upon entering into marriage is entitled to retain this surname after divorce; but on the request of the spouse concerned the court shall grant him/her entitlement to use his/her premarital surname. Nevertheless, it should also be noted that the court may forbid the spouse who has promoted the failure of the marriage to retain the marital surname, provided that this does not prejudice the interests of a child.
Pursuant to Section 238 of the Act on Civil Procedures divorce cannot be granted until the spouses have reached mutual agreement on the division of property. If the spouses fail to reach mutual agreement, these claims are settled in court on the basis of the Civil Code or the marriage contract. The Civil Code provides for two means for dealing with matrimonial property: matrimonial property may be subject to legislative provisions or to the terms and conditions of a marriage contract. Both of these regulate the division of property upon divorce.
If the division of property among spouses is subject to legislative provisions the Civil Code is applicable and each spouse is entitled to keep the property owned by him/her prior to marriage, as well as his/her separate property acquired during the marriage. However, any property acquired jointly or individually by the spouse during the marriage using common funds or with the contribution of the other spouse is considered as joint spousal property. Joint spousal property is taken to be owned by both spouses equally unless either of the spouses can substantiate and prove different proportions of division of joint property.
Where matrimonial property is subject to a marriage contract, the issue of the division of property upon divorce is settled in accordance with the terms and provisions of this contract.
Divorce as such may not affect parental responsibility in relation to children. However, a divorce cannot be obtained until the spouses have reached an agreement on custody of children, rights of access and maintenance of children. This issue is provided for in Section 238 of the Act on Civil Procedures, namely, that divorce proceedings relating to the matters mentioned above arising from legal family relations may not be heard separately, particularly with regard to the legal relations between parents and children.
Consequences of a divorce with regard to parental responsibility
If former spouses live separately after a divorce, their parental responsibility in relation to their children, that is joint custody over the children within the meaning of Latvian State legislation, continues. However, the parent together with whom the child lives exercises everyday parental responsibilities (custody). The Civil Code provides for the fact that if parents live separately custody rights over a child are not affected.
Consequences of a divorce in relation to maintenance for a child
The issue of maintenance for a child has to be determined during divorce proceedings. Nevertheless, divorce does not affect the obligation of both parents to support the child. Upon divorce parents may mutually agree on maintenance for a child, but where the parents fail to reach agreement the dispute is settled in court during divorce proceedings.
According to the provisions of the Civil Code, the former spouse may during divorce proceedings or even after the divorce, claim assets for maintaining the previous level of welfare or means of subsistence from the other spouse commensurate to the latter’s financial situation. The former spouse is obliged to provide such means if he/she has actively contributed to the failure of the marriage. It should be noted that the assets claimed from the former spouse must be necessary for the other spouse. Thus, the former spouse is not always obliged to provide for the previous level of welfare or means of subsistence with regard to the other spouse and the obligation to fulfil this requirement may also be annulled if:
The obligation to provide the previous level of welfare or subsistence to the other spouse is also annulled if the period of time since the divorce is equal to the duration of the dissolved marriage. If, however, a child of both spouses has not reached the age of legal majority during the aforementioned period and the former spouse entitled to claim subsistence has custody over the child the obligation shall remain in effect until the child reaches the age of legal majority.
The term “legal separation” does not exist under the Latvian legal system.
A marriage can be annulled if the marriage was concluded in breach of legislative provisions whereby the marriage was not lawfully concluded. From the point in time when a court judgment on the annulment of a marriage comes into effect the respective persons are treated as never having been married, and the marriage is considered null and void from the time it was concluded. It should be noted that a marriage may also be annulled after a divorce.
Not all legislative obstacles relating to the conclusion of a marriage can be objectively identified at the time of its conclusion. Therefore, the law provides for the possibility to annul a marriage after its conclusion if either of the spouses, other interested persons or the prosecutor establishes any of grounds for the annulment of the marriage and submits a respective claim to a court.
According to Section 59 of the Civil Code, marriage can only be annulled in the following legally defined situations:
A claim for the annulment of a marriage does not lapse in any of the above situations and either interested persons or the prosecutor may bring such claim. If, however, the contested marriage has terminated because of death or divorce only persons whose rights are infringed by such marriage may bring a claim for annulment.
It should be noted that a case for the annulment of a marriage may not be brought after the death of both spouses.
A spouse whose marriage is annulled regains his/her premarital surname. A person who was not aware of the non-validity of the marriage at the time it was registered may keep his/her marital surname upon request to the court.
If one of the spouses was aware of the possible annulment of the marriage at the time of its conclusion, the other spouse is entitled to claim from the former not only the means for subsistence corresponding to the previous level of welfare or support but also compensation for moral damages.
As in the case of divorce, where a marriage is annulled the former spouse is not obliged to provide for the previous level of welfare or support to the other former spouse, or such an obligation may cease, in the following cases:
The obligation to provide the previous level of welfare or subsistence to the other spouse is also terminated if the period of time since the annulment is equal to the duration of the dissolved marriage. If, however, the child of both spouses has not reached the age of legal majority during the aforementioned period and the former spouse entitled to claim subsistence has custody over the child the obligation shall remain in effect until the child reaches the age of legal majority.
As far as division of property upon the annulment of marriage is concerned, each former spouse is entitled to keep his/her premarital property as well as his/her separate property acquired during cohabitation. Generally joint property shall be equally divided among the former spouses.
If neither of the spouses was aware of the possible invalidity of marriage at the time of its conclusion, joint property is divided in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Code governing division of property upon divorce (see Question 3(b)). If, however, only one spouse was not aware of the invalidity of the marriage, the division of property upon a marriage annulment is applicable in the same manner as in a divorce, but only in respect of the spouse who was not aware of the possible invalidity of the marriage.
There are no alternative non-judicial means in Latvia for obtaining a divorce apart from court proceedings. However, divorce proceedings, as is the case with regard to other civil proceedings, are largely aimed at reconciliating the parties and settling their mutual claims by their mutual agreement.
Applications for a divorce or a marriage annulment are brought before the competent district (city) court in accordance with legislative provisions governing jurisdiction. If the divorce proceedings involve the division of assets including property rights to immovable property such divorce proceedings may fall under the jurisdiction of a regional court.
Jurisdiction in matters of divorce, legal separation or annulment of marriage where one or both spouses are habitually resident or nationals of a Member State is governed by Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003, pursuant to which an application for a divorce or marriage annulment in Latvia may be submitted to the respective district (city) court:
Further details relating to the jurisdiction of the courts, particularly in situations where divorce proceedings involve matters related to parental responsibility, are specified in Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003.
According to the provisions of the Act on Civil Procedures, a claim for divorce or annulment of a marriage may be brought to a district (city) court:
Bilateral international treaties with third countries which are binding upon Latvia relating to legal assistance and legal relations simultaneously determine jurisdiction in matters relating to divorce and marriage annulment.
Regardless of whether or not a case falls under the jurisdiction of a court, on the basis the provisions of the aforementioned Council Regulation, the provisions of the Act on Civil Procedures or the provisions of bilateral international treaties binding upon Latvia, a person applying for a divorce has to provide the following information in the application in accordance with Sections 128 and 235.1 of the Act on Civil Procedures:
The application (statement of claim) has to be signed by the claimant or his/her attorney. If an attorney is bringing a claim on behalf of a claimant, the power of attorney or other document showing the attorney’s authority to bring the claim has to accompany the statement of claim.
The following documents must accompany the application:
In general, the state provides legal aid if the particular situation, financial situation and overall income level of the person give rise to objective difficulties for that person to ensure appropriate protection of his/her rights. Legal aid is granted in accordance with the provisions of the Act on State Legal Aid.
In general, legal aid covers expenditure relating to preparation of procedural documents, legal advice during the proceedings, and representation before the court. In cross-border cases the person is also entitled to receive legal aid to cover interpreter services and the translation of certain judicial and extra-judicial documents and any documents submitted by the person concerned, where such documents are necessary for the case; and in certain situations also travel costs relating to participation in the proceedings.
A court judgment in a divorce case delivered by a district (city) court may be appealed on its merits before a regional court. A judgment by a regional court relating to an appeal may be contested pursuant to cassation procedures in an appeal before the Senate of the Supreme Court.
Where a court judgment in a divorce case is delivered by a regional court as the court of first instance, this judgment may by appealed before the Civil Cases Panel of the Supreme Court. A judgment by the Civil Matters Panel of the Supreme Court relating to an appeal may be contested in an appeal in accordance with cassation procedures before the Senate of the Supreme Court.
A judgment on divorce/legal separation/marriage annulment passed in another Member State is recognised in Latvia in accordance with the provisions of Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003. Pursuant to the provisions of this Regulation judgments made in one Member State are recognised in other Member States without the need for special procedures.
However, if a person wants a judgment to be passed in another Member State relating to a divorce/legal separation/marriage annulment to be recognised in Latvia, the person is required to submit to a district (city) court an application for recognition of a judgment delivered by the court of another Member State at the place of enforcement or at the place where the party against whom recognition is sought resides.
Upon receipt and examination of such an application the district (city) court concerned shall decide within 10 days whether the judgment can be recognised in Latvia. The court may only refuse recognition of the judgment in Latvia on the grounds of non-recognition specified in Article 22 of Council Regulation No 2201/2003:
Pursuant to Section 638 of the Act on Civil Procedures, the applicant shall indicate the following information in an application for recognition of a judgment:
In accordance with Article 37 of Council Regulation No 2201/2003, the documents which must accompany an application for recognition of a judgment passed in another Member State are as follows:
According to Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003, the interested party may object in two ways against the recognition in Latvia of a judgment passed in another Member State on divorce, legal separation or annulment of marriage.
Firstly, according to the provisions of Article 21 of Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 any interested party may submit an application to a city (district) court for non-recognition in Latvia of a judgment made in another Member State. See Question 14 for jurisdiction, application procedures and grounds for non-recognition.
Secondly, the person against whom the recognition is sought may contest recognition in Latvia in respect of a recognition case which has already been submitted and where the district (city) court has recognised the judgment pursuant to such an application. Thus, the respondent in these proceedings may raise objections to recognition in Latvia of a judgment passed in another Member State by contesting the decision of a district (city) court in which the recognition of a judgment was granted. Pursuant to Article 33 of Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003, the decision of a district (city) court in a case relating to the recognition of a judgment made in another Member State may be appealed against before a regional court by means of an ancillary complaint before the court that delivered the decision; the application should be addressed to the corresponding regional court. The respondent (or the applicant) may appeal against a recognition decision by a regional court to the Senate of the Supreme Court by means of an ancillary complaint submitted before the regional court that delivered the decision and addressing the application to the Civil Division of the Senate Supreme Court.
The defendant may raise objections to the recognition of a judgment passed in another Member State on non-recognition grounds as specified in Article 22 of Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 (see Question 14).
Pursuant to the Civil Code, where a case is brought in Latvia, Latvian law (legislation) governs marriage annulment or divorce regardless of the nationality or the place of residence of the spouses.
Last update: 21-09-2007