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Legal clarity for international couples on matrimonial property

February 2019

Malta is among the 18 EU member states where new EU Regulations clarifying the rules applicable to property regimes for international married couples or registered partnerships, entered into force on 29 January 2019.

The regulations, covering the management and distribution of joint property such as bank accounts in the event of death, separation or divorce, are projected to provide increased legal clarity for cross-border couples. As the full 28 EU Member States could not reach an agreement on clarifying property regimes for international couples, the rules will apply – at least initially – in the following 18 states which approved them: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

The 18 Member States that joined the enhanced cooperation make up 70% of the EU population and represent the majority of international couples who live in the European Union. The non-participating Member States will continue applying their national law (including their rules on private international law) to cross-border situations relating to matrimonial property. These will still retain however the option to join the regulations at any time. (Article 331 TFEU).

Commissioners Frans Timmermans welcomed the entry into force stating,

"The entry into application of these regulations is good news for the growing number of international couples in Europe. This is about giving certainty to thousands of European couples about what happens to their property if they divorce or one of them dies. I am confident that these regulations will help many European couples manage such difficult times,”

Justice Commissioner Jourova added,

“These new rules will make it easier and cheaper to divide joint assets and provide some relief to people in difficult circumstances. More than 16 million international couples will benefit from clear procedures in case of divorce or death of a partner. They will be able to save around €350 million each year in legal costs. I encourage the remaining Member States to join the enhanced cooperation for the sake of all international couples across the EU.”

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