Requirements for divorce in Belgium
British and Welsh expatriates can divorce in Belgium, provided the spouses live in Belgium. There is no minimum period of residency required to divorce in Belgium, rather the applicant’s habitual residence must be in Belgium. The divorce proceedings will be subject to Belgian Law.
Division of assets
The Courts will investigate which law is to be applied in relation to the division of assets, meaning it could be Belgian law or foreign law. In scenarios where foreign law applies, the Courts require guidance as to how it should be applied in order to decide how to proceed.
If Belgian law applies to pre-acquired and inherited assets, they are treated as separate to the marriage and not included within the marriage contract. However, the party claiming the spousal maintenance is required to prove ownership of the assets. If ownership cannot be proved, the law presumes that the assets are jointly owned. All income earned by the spouses is seen as a joint asset, as is the income from any pre-acquired or inherited assets.
If the claim is subject to Belgian law, spousal maintenance may be awarded. Usually, the parties agree on the exact amount within their settlement agreement. If this is not possible, a claim would be brought before the Court, and the maintenance amount awarded will be based on the needs of the claimant. The maximum time that spousal maintenance can be awarded for is the length of the marriage.
In some exceptional cases, a spousal maintenance claim will be rejected where domestic abuse has occurred, or other familial crimes. In these circumstances, the party in question must have been convicted of the crime, as otherwise they are presumed innocent.
In cases where both parties mutually consent to divorce, all child arrangements must be set out within the settlement agreement, and agreed between both parties before the divorce can proceed. Usually, the ex-spouses agree to joint custody of their child/children. The Family Tribunal may request changes to the custody agreement, based on the child’s interests and welfare.
In cases where the parties cannot agree their child arrangements, they may still proceed with a divorce but all claims will be brought before the Court who will decide on custody for the child involved.
When a party wishes to relocate their child following a divorce, the parties must both consent to this. If this is not possible, the Tribunal will make the decision based on the child’s welfare and interests.