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Getting divorced in Belgium: How does it work?
Legal counsel is not mandatory - an individual or couple may introduce divorce proceedings – but professional help is recommended. Divorce may be sought by mutual consent, provided that there is an agreement on the division of all property, payment of alimony, and custody of any children.
Divorce may also be sought on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, though this does not imply that either partner was at fault. Foreigners living in Belgium may obtain a divorce under Belgian law if their home country recognises Belgian divorce law.
A notary’s services are obligatory for the division of property and a notary can also file the divorce request: they can play an impartial and mediatory role. Information can be obtained from the notary free of charge. If both partners agree, they can be divorced if they have lived apart for a minimum of six months.
There are three ways of obtaining a divorce on grounds of irreconcilable differences: by proving irretrievable breakdown (a court summons is necessary), joint request for the divorce, and unilateral request.
If a child is a resident of Belgium at the time of the parents’ separation, Belgian courts have jurisdiction to decide with whom they live. If there is no alternative agreement between the parents, the courts may award joint custody. Children who are deemed to be of an age where they are capable of discernment may express their wishes. According to their means, both parents must contribute to the upbringing and care of minor children.