Ever since the creation of the European Union and other international agreements on freedom of movement, people are coming closer. Nowadays, there are millions of international couples worldwide. They may have conducted marriage abroad, have relocated and obtained properties in different countries. In case the couples wish to end the marriage, or apply for a cross-border divorce they must begin the divorce procedures and other subsequent arrangements. Facing a divorce is one of the most challenging and stressful events in people's lives, especially if it involves international affairs. International couples have the option to select the most suitable jurisdiction to proceed with dissolving their marriage.

The couples need to take into consideration various elements in deciding which jurisdiction they wish to start the divorce proceedings. They need to submit separate applications to the court about the division of marital assets, maintenance and parental responsibility.

Before selecting a jurisdiction to settle their after-marriage affairs, international couples usually take into consideration various factors. Such factors include:

  • Financial arrangements;
  • Divorce proceedings and legal cost in each country;
  • The available injunctions for asset protection;
  • The grounds for divorce;
  • Parental care.

Cyprus offers a beneficial jurisdiction in regard to family matters with quite straightforward procedures.

Cross Border Divorce Procedure

The Cyprus Family Courts have jurisdiction to dissolve a marriage of any two persons, irrespective of their citizenship or residence. The nationality of the spouses or the place where the wedding was registered is also irrelevant. They only require one of the spouses to have been residing in Cyprus for 3 months prior to the application. Additionally, the applicant must provide the other spouse's home or work address to serve the divorce papers through a bailiff.

For civil marriages, the applicant spouse files a divorce application together with the marriage certificate to the court. It is a rather straightforward and fast procedure when both parties agree. After the application is filed the court sets a date for the first hearing. Meanwhile, the divorce papers are served to the respondent (the spouse against whom the application is filed). The respondent has the right to appoint a lawyer for the proceedings in case of a disagreement. They also have the right not to appear at the first hearing; then, the court issues the divorce in their absence. Overall, the time needed to receive the divorce papers is around 1 month.

The procedure is slightly different when the spouses were married at a religious ceremony (of the Greek Orthodox Church, Armenian, Latin or Maronite Church). In such cases, the spouses must send a Notice on Intent of Divorce to the Bishop. Then, the applicant can file a divorce petition to the court 3 months later. 

Legal Grounds for Divorce

The cross-border divorce comes as a result of a serious breakdown of the relationship. Some of the legal grounds of divorce include:

  • Adultery
  • Abusive, offensive or other repetitive indecent behaviour
  • Physical abuse
  • Unjustified abandonment for 2 years
  • Insanity

Financial Settlement after Cross-Border Divorce

Any property obtained during the marriage, and for the purpose of marriage, is considered matrimonial property. This means that the property was acquired by the joint contribution of both spouses. Thus, after the dissolution of the marriage, the property must be equally divided between the two spouses. When the spouses disagree on the division of assets, they file a petition to the court to handle it.

It is common for the assets of one spouse to increase during the marriage with the other spouse's contributions. In such cases, the second spouse is entitled to receive the value of their contribution to the increase. The contribution is usually assumed to be ? of the increase unless a larger or smaller amount is proved. On the other hand, any property increased or acquired prior to the marriage is not considered matrimonial. Section 13 of Law 232/1991 (Regulating Property Relations of Spouse) provides that marriage does not influence the property independence of each spouse. In other words, each spouse can keep the property they owned individually before marriage after it is dissolved.

Maintenance after Cross-border Divorce

After the divorce, one spouse can claim maintenance from the other when they cannot secure an adequate income or property. The following requirements must be satisfied:

  • The age or health state of the spouse does not allow them to continue the pursuit of an appropriate occupation.
  • The spouse has custody of a minor child or an adult child/dependant, unable to take care of themselves or work due to physical or mental disability.
  • The spouse cannot find a permanent job or needs professional training for no more than 3 years from the date of divorce.

They must file two additional petitions for custody and maintenance in case they have minor children.

Reasons for the maintenance to be reduced or end:

  • The duration of the marriage was very short.
  • The claimant voluntarily caused their own poverty.
  • The dissolution of the marriage was caused due to the claimant's fault.
  • The beneficiary remarries or cohabits with someone else in a form of free union.
  • One of the parties dies.
  • The order is annulled by the court.

Originally Published 5 March, 2021

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.