One of the four pillars of the European Union is the freedom of movement within the European Community. Since its establishment and enforcement with every year more and more European citizens travel within the borders of the EU, get jobs in other Member States, settle there and often also get partners from other Member States (today there are ca 16 million international couples in the European Union). This has all been made easier by the harmonisation of European laws. Now the European Commission and Council take a closer look to what happens to these international partnerships/marriages when they end - either via divorce or death. More specifically, it has become clear that a lack of harmonized rules regarding the property rights of such international couples leads to long-time disputes, forum shopping (since often it's not clear a court of which country is empowered to give a ruling), and as a result: many costs to European citizens as well as institutions.
The European Council proposes now two new regulations that would provide for clear rules for recognising and enforcing court judgements on a couple's property in all EU Member States through a single procedure. These simplified, unified rules are supposed to save per case (per couple) ca 2000-3000 Euro. They will enable married couple to choose the law that applies to their joint property. Registered partners will also get legal certainty since their assets would be subject to the laws of the country where the partnership was registered. Finally, clear rules would be set for choosing the court that is responsible for adjudicating the case.
Hopefully, this will contribute to European consumers being more secure in their property and financial rights and it will decrease the uncertainty and confusion at a time that is not easy to begin with since you are either getting divorced or burying your spouse...
Press release on this subject may be found here.
Questions and answers on problems relating to this subject may be found here.
Council regulation on jurisdiction, applicable law and the recognition and enforcement of decisions in matters of matrimonial property regimes may be found here.
Council regulation on jurisdiction, applicable law and the recognition and enforcement of decisions regarding the property consequences of registered partnership may be found here.