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EU proposes simplified international divorce laws

[JURIST] The European Commission (EC) [official website] on Wednesday proposed reforms to simplify and clarify international divorce laws. Under the proposal, married couples from different European Union (EU) countries could choose the country of the divorce, and the various courts would use a common formula [press release] to decide which country's law applies when a couple disagrees. EC Vice President Viviane Reding [official website] said the law will protect [press release] the weaker spouse and reduce the costs of litigation:

International couples can encounter arbitrary legal problems that turn the tragedy of divorce into a financial and emotional disaster, making peoples' lives very hard. Thousands of couples find themselves in difficult personal situations because national legal systems have so far failed to provide clear answers. In many cases, children and the weaker spouse suffer. I do not want people in the EU to be left to manage complicated international divorces alone. I want them to have clear rules so that they always know where they stand. This is why we decided to move ahead today.

The measure, supported by 10 countries [BBC report], is expected to be passed under enhanced cooperation [EU backgrounder], which allows nine or more members to pass a law they deem important.

In January, EU Justice Ministers debated [JURIST report] whether to use enhanced cooperation for the first time to create a uniform marriage and divorce law for mixed-nationality couples. In hearings before the EU parliament, Reding said such a measure was necessary [press release] because cross-border divorces were a big problem as the law across the member countries varied significantly. For instance, in July, the UK recognized prenuptial agreements [JURIST report] as a valid contract for the first time, bringing its law in line with other European countries. The issue is currently on appeal before the UK Supreme Court.

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