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Property effects of marriage and registered partnership

The death of a spouse or a divorce is a difficult time for anyone. Citizens should not be burdened even more by complicated administrative or legal procedures that cost time and money. As more and more people fall in love, marry or create partnerships across borders, clear rules are needed to decide how joint property is divided in case of death, divorce or separation.

28 points of view

Marriage and registered partnerships follow different rules in each EU country.


  • 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 partnership:

  • this is recognised in 18 EU countries (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Slovenia, some regions of Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom);
    • Sweden: marriage for same-sex partners has been recognised since 2009 when registered partnerships were abolished; though they continue to exist if concluded before May 2009;
  • while 17 countries allow same-sex couples to register partnerships, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands permit both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to register.

Commission goes ahead with 17 Member States to clarify property rights for Europe’s international couples

The European Commission adopted on 02/03/2016 proposals to clarify the property rights for international married couples or registered partnerships. These proposals will establish clear rules in cases of divorce or separation and bring an end to parallel and possibly conflicting proceedings in various Member States, for instance on property or bank accounts. In short, it will bring more legal clarity for international couples. Since it was not possible to reach unanimity among 28 Member States on proposals originally brought forward in 2011, the Commission is now going ahead with 17 Member States willing to join this initiative through an enhanced cooperation.

More information is available here:

These regulations will:

  • enable married international couples to choose the law that applies to their property in case of death or divorce;
  • enhance legal certainty for registered partnerships with an international dimension, by submitting the joint property to the law of the country where the partnership was registered;
  • bring legal certainty for international couples (married or in registered partnerships) through a coherent set of rules for identifying which country's court is responsible and which law will apply;
  • increase predictability for couples by smoothing out the process for recognising judgments, decisions and titles throughout the EU.

The regulations do not harmonise or change any of the substantive national law on marriage or registered partnerships.

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