Where should international couples be able to get a divorce? An EU regulation backed by the EP Civil Liberties Committee and at least nine Member States should eliminate a lot of disputes over the choice of country for the roughly 170,000 cross-border divorces that take place every year in the European Union. MEPs want the public to have more choice and better information in these matters.The Commission proposal on which the European Parliament is being consulted does not seek to create a standard EU-wide divorce system but to harmonise the rules on disputes, which until now have been unclear: most Member States do not allow couples to choose the law that applies to their divorce. The result is sometimes a form of "forum shopping", with one partner launching divorce proceedings in the country where he/she thinks their interests will be best served.
The aim of the draft EU regulation is to allow couples to choose the Member State where they wish to divorce, if they have other defined links with it, such as place of marriage, usual domicile, nationality or if it is their last country of residence. The proposal provides for the two parties to be informed of their rights, to prevent the choice of law applicable creating a disadvantage for the weaker member of a couple.
The Commission's draft has encountered opposition in the Council from Sweden but has to be approved unanimously to become EU law. However, at least nine countries (France, Italy, Spain, Romania, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia and Luxembourg) have agreed to use the "enhanced cooperation" method for this matter, which would enable them to go ahead on their own.
Ensuring better information for partners
With the EP being consulted on this legislation, the Civil Liberties Committee approved the initial proposal when it adopted a report by Evelyne Gebhardt (PES, DE) on Monday.
However, MEPs are proposing amendments emphasising the need to inform couples of the practical repercussions of their choices, and seeking to ensure that they receive full, reliable information before signing any act. For this purpose, they suggest the creation of an information system on the internet.