Who can get divorced in Belgium?

Family proceedings in Belgium, including divorce, are subject to European Regulation (EC) No220 1/2003 of 27/11/2003 concerning jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of judgements in matrimonial matters and in matters of parental responsibility.

Article 3 of this Regulation stipulates several situations in which the applicant may divorce in Belgium:

  • if the usual residence of the spouses is in Belgium;
  • if the last usual residence of the spouses is in Belgium insofar as one of them still resides there;
  • if the two spouses have Belgian nationality, even when they live abroad.
  • if the usual residence of the respondent is in Belgium;
  • in the case of a joint application, if the usual residence of one or other of the spouses is in Belgium;
  • if the usual residence of the applicant is in Belgium and if he or she resided there for at least one year immediately before the application was launched;
  • if the usual residence of the applicant is in Belgium and if he or she resided there for at least six months immediately before the application was launched and if he or she is of Belgian nationality;

How long does it take to get a divorce?

It all depends on the divorce procedure chosen.

In case of amicable divorce, that is to say in the case of mutual consent or of a joint request for de facto separation of more than 6 months, the procedure is relatively fast.

Divorce by mutual consent

The spouses are summoned before the competent judge for a first appearance in the month of the filing of the application instituting proceedings .

In principle, the spouses must appear twice: initially when first summoned to the introductory hearing, and then a second time at least 3 months after the first appearance.

Under certain conditions, the 2007 law allows the procedure for divorce to be speeded up. Therefore, if on the day of the application, the spouses have already been separated de facto for more than 6 months, they must appear only once before the judge: the first appearance will suffice.

Divorce for de facto separation of more than six months

If both spouses have agreed to divorce, they may, on joint request, instigate divorce on the basis of a de facto separation of more than 6 months. It is enough for them to provide evidence that they have been separated for more than six months: the judge is then required to grant the divorce immediately.

If they have not been separated for more than six months on the day of the hearing for instigating divorce proceedings, the judge then sets a new appearance at a second hearing, which will take place three months after the first (article 229§2 Code Civil and 1255, §1 Code Judiciaire).

Contested divorce

In contrast, in the case of contested divorce – that is to say the other types of divorce – it will take longer.

How do I calculate the amount of maintenance after divorce?

The law specifies that:

“The court shall fix the amount of maintenance which must cover at least the beneficiary’s needs.

The judge takes account of the income and possibilities of the spouses and of the significant deterioration of the economic situation of the beneficiary. To estimate this deterioration, the judge bases the assessment in particular on the duration of the marriage, the age of the parties, their behaviour during the marriage with regard to the organisation of their needs, the care of children during conjugal life or after the latter. The judge may decide, if appropriate, that maintenance will be on a sliding scale and determine to what extent it will be so”.

Maintenance may not exceed one third of the net income (salary or professional income net of taxes and social security contributions) of the debtor spouse.

For how long must maintenance be paid?

The period for maintenance may not, in principle, be greater than the duration of the marriage.

However, the law provides that in exceptional circumstances, if the beneficiary shows that at the expiry of the prescribed period, he or she remains, for reasons outside his or her control, in a state of need, the court may extend the period. In this case, the amount of maintenance corresponds to the amount required to cover the beneficiary’s needs.

Are the amounts of maintenance paid tax-deductible?

Yes, maintenance is tax-deductible to a maximum of 80% of the income of the debtor.

Is beneficiary of the maintenance taxed on the amounts received in this respect?

Yes, the amounts collected in respect of maintenance are considered to be taxable income and are taxed under “miscellaneous income” to a maximum of 80 %.

This means that 80% of the amounts received as an allowance must be added to the other taxable income of the beneficiary. All of the income thus defined will then be taxed in bands according to a sliding scale of rates.

I am single - can I still be a candidate for adoption?

Yes. The law defines persons who qualify for adoption as being either an individual, or spouses or cohabiting partners (article 343 §1 a) of the Code Civil [Civil Code]).

Is adoption reserved only for heterosexual couples?

No, homosexual couples can totally aspire to adoption in Belgium.

The law of 18 May 2006 removed the difference of sex as a condition for adoption on the part of candidates for adoption: two persons who are married or cohabiting homosexuals and who wish to adopt jointly can make an application.