The Litigation and Arbitration Law Department at Belzuz Abogados, S.L. - Portugal Branch addresses the always pertinent issue of the transcription of marriages and divorce-related amendments for citizens of Member States of the European Union.
Freedom of movement is an irrefutable facet of today's world. It is a consequence of both the ease of transport and the international labour market and means, of course that people end up having ties with more than one country. They can be born in one country, be raised and study in another and work and marry in a country other than that in which they were born or raised, whilst also wanting to maintain ties with the country of origin of their parents, who may have different nationalities. Many people now have dual or even multiple nationalities.
In the context of all this variety, it is important to remember that civil acts still need to be registered. Portuguese citizens marry, divorce or die abroad must make arrangements for such events to be transcribed onto their Portuguese civil registry record. If the record reflects their de facto reality, their civil rights can be safeguarded, as can those of their current spouse and descendants. This is of particular importance when it comes to applying for Portuguese nationality or determining rights over a shared inheritance or asset.
Although marriages can be officially recorded by the country of origin consulate in the country of residence, the situation is not so straightforward in the case of divorces.
As a rule, the decisions of foreign courts, or of other competent authorities, concerning the status or civil capacity of Portuguese citizens, must be reviewed and confirmed by a Portuguese court.
The Court of Appeal is responsible for reviewing and confirming foreign rulings. Only once this process has run its course will the court officially instruct the Civil Registry Office to amend the Portuguese citizen’s birth and marriage record to reflect the divorce.
However, where divorces are decreed in member countries of the European Union, the divorce ruling or decision may, without any further formalities, be registered at the Civil Registry Office. This possibility is enshrined in European Council Regulation (EC) 2201/2003, dated 27 November.
The appropriate process for endorsing a divorce ruling or decision needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Certain situations preclude recognition of the decision, particularly where it is deemed to be contrary to the public policy of the state in which the record is to be amended or where one party was not summoned in the proceedings or where the decision is incompatible with another decision made in proceedings between the same parties in the Member State in which the record is to be amended.
The following documentation will need to be provided: the marriage certificate bearing the divorce endorsement, duly translated, the birth certificate of both spouses and the translated divorce certificate that is to inform the process.
If the marriage has not yet been registered at the time of the divorce, it must first be registered at the civil registry and only then can the application for registration of the divorce be filed.
This procedure results in both lower court costs and faster updating of the registry.
Although the process is streamlined in the case of divorces decreed in European Union member states, it is still bureaucratic, given the preparatory work involved in assembling the necessary documentation and instructing the request and the time required for the process to run its course at the registry office.
The Litigation and Arbitration Law Department at Belzuz Abogados, SLP – Portugal Office has extensive experience in providing advice and legal representation for the registration of divorce rulings and decisions, whether before the courts or at the civil registry office.
Belzuz Abogados SLP
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