Cross-border rules

As more and more people fall in love, marry or live in partnerships across borders, clear rules are needed on how joint property is divided in case of death, divorce or separation.

Marriage

Each EU country has different rules on marriage and registered partnerships.

  • 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 partnerships

  • registered partnerships are recognised in 18 EU countries (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, 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
  • 17 countries allow same-sex couples to register partnerships
  • Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands allow both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to register their partnership

Property rights

New rules applying as from 29 January 2019, aim to clarify the property rights for international married couples or registered partnerships. These clear rules on divorce or separation bring an end to parallel and possibly conflicting laws, for example on property or bank accounts, in different EU countries.

Since it was not possible to agree among all 28 EU countries, 18 of them have decided to work together on this initiative and will apply these rules. These are: Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Finland and Sweden. The rest will continue to apply their respective national rules.

Full text of the two regulations

These regulations will

  • allow international couples to choose the law that applies to their property in case of death or divorce
  • enhance legal certainty for couples  with an international dimension. The law of the country where the marriage was concluded or the partnership was registered applies to their property
  • bring legal certainty for international couples through coherent rules for identifying which country's court is responsible and which law applies
  • increase predictability for couples through easier recognition of judgments, decisions and titles everywhere in the EU

The regulations do not change national laws on marriage or registered partnerships.