As more and more people marry or live in partnerships across borders, clear rules are needed on how joint property is divided in case of death, divorce or separation.
EU countries have different rules on marriage:
- marriage is a legal institution recognised in all 28 EU countries
- in 14 EU countries, it is open to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples: Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Malta, Ireland, Finland, France, Denmark, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden and Portugal.
- 21 EU countries allow registered partnerships (also for same-sex couples): Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
New rules applying as from 29 January 2019 aim to clarify the property rights for international couples, either married or in a registered partnership. These rules, which help international couples manage their property on a daily basis or divide it in case of death, divorce or separation, bring an end to parallel and possibly conflicting proceedings, for example on property or bank accounts, in different EU countries.
Since it was not possible for all 28 EU countries to agree on the new rules, 18 of them decided to cooperate on these rules and adopt them. These EU countries are: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Finland and Sweden. The other EU countries can join the new rules any time. In the meantime, they will continue to apply their respective national rules.
Full text of the two regulations
- Regulation applying to matrimonial property matters
- Regulation applying to property consequences of registered partnerships
The new regulations, one covering marriages and the other registered partnerships, will:
- help international couples know which EU country's courts will deal with a dispute on their property in case of divorce, separation or death;
- help international couples know which country's law will apply to questions concerning their property;
- help international couples have a judgment recognised and enforced in another EU country.
The regulations do not change national laws on marriage or registered partnerships.
The EU Regulations on the property regimes for international couples, covering both marriages and registered partnerships, apply since 29 January 2019.