Divorce

If you are Belgian, all changes to your civil status are governed by Belgian law. Belgian law applies even if you live abroad.

If you live abroad, you must inform your local Belgian embassy or consulate of all changes to your civil status.

Is a divorce obtained abroad valid in Belgium?

A divorce that was obtained abroad can, with regard to the dissolution of the marriage itself, be recognised in Belgium without intervention by a Belgian court. Other aspects of the divorce ruling (such as maintenance payments, custody of children and division of the joint estate) shall not apply in Belgium until a Belgian court has ruled that they can be executed (the 'exequatur procedure').

What conditions does my divorce obtained abroad have to meet?

All the following conditions must met:

  • The decision abroad cannot run counter to Belgian public order.
  • The rights of defence must be respected.
  • The decision must not have been obtained with the sole purpose of evading the implementation of rights designated by law.
  • The decision must be definitive in accordance with the law of the country in which it was issued. There should therefore be no possibility that an appeal might be lodged and you must be able to provide proof of this with a certificate issued by the relevant authority (usually the court clerk) that includes the date upon which the decision became definitive.
  • The decision must not be incompatible with a decision handed down in Belgium or a decision previously handed down abroad and recognised in Belgium.
  • If the same right of action has been lodged before two courts in different countries, only the decision issued by the first court asked to rule can enter into force provided that the court is competent.
  • The jurisdiction of the foreign court may not be based solely on the presence of the defendant or possessions in the foreign country without there being a direct link with the law suit. 
  • If the decision represents the husband's desire to dissolve the marriage, the wife must also be entitled to this same right.
  • The divorce certificate issued abroad must be legalised.

It should also be noted that the essential legal aspects of the decision issued abroad can not be revised in Belgium.

Does a divorce certificate issued abroad have to be entered into the Belgian registers?

If you were married in Belgium or if your marriage was entered into the civil status registers in Belgium, you can ask the registrar in your municipality to add a note in the margin of your marriage certificate. Further information on entering registration certificates issued abroad is available under Registration certificates.

Further information can also be obtained by contacting:

  • Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Registry Department
  • The embassy or consulate in your main place of residence abroad
  • Your municipal authority in Belgium