European Commission proposes harmonised matrimonial property regime

The European Commission has adopted proposals for a common property regime for international couples. These include two regulations, one that governs matrimonial property regimes for married couples and a second one that deals with property consequences of registered partnerships.

The European Commission has found that 13 % of 2.4 million new marriages and 19 % of the 211,000 registered partnerships have an international dimension. The European Commission has been working on these regulations for years ; the first text was drafted in 2011. They will determine the jurisdiction for legal proceedings in cases of divorce or death where the couple had links with two or more Member States.

These proposals will clarify

  • which national court is competent to help them manage their property or distribute it between them in case of divorce, separation or death (jurisdiction rules);
  • which law shall apply when the laws of several countries could potentially apply to the case (rules on applicable law);

Moreover, these regulations will facilitate the recognition and enforcement of a judgment in one Member State on property matters given in another Member State.

These proposed regulations were adopted at the European Council of Ministers in November last year. However, at a meeting of EU Council of Ministers in December 2015, only 17 of the 28 EU Member States were prepared to adopt these regulations and implement an ‘enhanced cooperation’ process to implement the two regulations : Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. They cover two-thirds of the population of the European Union.

The other Member States will continue to apply their national law and their own private international law to cross-border situations dealing with matrimonial property.

The European Commission hopes that this enhanced co-operation may be in force in the seventeen Member States by the end of 2016, and fully effective in 2017.

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