The breakdown of a marriage is not an easy period in life, but from experience, we know that it can be handled so that the spouses do not think back on it with bitterness. In our view, the key to a swift and dignified divorce is mutual communication and ideally the ability to agree on key issues alone (directly or via a lawyer) and reach an uncontested divorce.
What we can do for you
We can represent either the divorcing spouse before the court, achieve a fair property settlement, potentially alimony and painless child custody arrangements.
If required by the case, we will involve one of our foreign partner attorneys in the work.
Basic questions and answers concerning international divorce
What is the difference between divorce and annulment of marriage?
Under Czech law, divorce is the only way to terminate the marriage while both spouses are living. The court decides about the invalidity or apparency of marriage in the situations defined by law, e.g. if one of the spouses has already entered into a marriage/registered partnership, or if both spouses are relatives, or if the marriage was entered into under the threat of violence.
When is international divorce decided by Czech court and when by foreign courts?
Czech courts will always decide about the divorce if:
- both spouses live in the Czech Republic, or
- their last common place of residence is in the Czech Republic and at least one of them lives in the Czech Republic.
In this case, permanent residence, which is of a purely administrative nature, is not relevant, but rather the place of usual residence, meaning the place where the person actually lives and is integrated into social life.
Other possible situations in which the Czech courts will decide include cases when the Czech Republic is:
- the usual place of residence of the defendant,
- the usual place of residence of at least one spouse in the case of a joint motion to commence proceedings,
- the usual place of residence of the plaintiff, who has also been living here for one year,
- the usual place of residence of the plaintiff, who has also been living here for 6 months and is a citizen of the Czech Republic.
What if the same divorce proceedings are simultaneously underway in two countries?
If the divorce proceedings were commenced before the courts in two different countries, the court which commenced proceedings later will suspend them without a motion until the jurisdiction of the other court is determined.
When is the matter governed by Czech law and when by other law?
Divorce proceedings will be governed by Czech law, if it governed the personal relations of the spouses at the time when they commenced.
However, Czech law may also be applied in the much less common case, when at least one of the spouses is a Czech citizen (or at least has usual residence in the Czech Republic), but simultaneously the marriage should be divorced pursuant to the laws of a country which does not enable divorce at all, or enables it only under particularly severe circumstances. Examples of countries where divorce is no simple matter:
- In the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia, the husband may divorce from his wife, while the wife needs a court decision for divorce. However, she may obtain it only on the basis of a few circumstances defined by law.
- In the Philippines, divorce is illegal for Christians and the only means is annulment of the marriage or separation, which the law permits under certain conditions.
- In other countries, divorce is a novelty; for instance in Chile it has been permitted by law only since 2004, and in Malta only after a referendum in 2011.
Types of divorce
Divorce is essentially possible in two forms, uncontested and contested.
In an uncontested divorce, both spouses consent to the divorce and other legal requirements are met. The court is satisfied by this and does not determine the causes for breakup of the marriage. This type of divorce is often called an amicable divorce, and is undoubtedly the swifter and more pleasant option.
Conditions for uncontested divorce:
- the marriage has lasted more than 1 year,
- the spouses have not been living together for at least 6 months,
- the spouses file the petition for divorce jointly, or one submits it and the other subsequently joins,
- the spouses have agreed in writing and with their certified signatures on the settlement of property, housing and potential alimony,
- if the spouses are parents, the court must approve the spouses’ agreement on the arrangement of child custody after the divorce.
A divorce is contested if the conditions for an uncontested divorce are not met – e.g. one of the spouses does not agree to the divorce, the spouses have not agreed on property settlement, etc.
In a contested divorce, the court decides based on the motion (action) of either spouse. During divorce proceedings, it examines whether the marriage is profoundly, permanently and irreconcilably broken down. If it reaches a positive conclusion, it may divorce the marriage even without the consent or signature of the other spouse, provided it is not a so-called impeded divorce.
Impeded divorce is a term used for one of two situations, when the court cannot divorce the marriage by law:
- The defendant largely did not partake in the breakdown of the marriage (did not violate the marriage vows) and would suffer particular detriment through the divorce, whereas extraordinary circumstances are given to preserve the marriage (e.g. medical condition of the spouse that does not want to divorce). However, the court will divorce the marriage despite the extraordinary circumstances in favour of its preservation, if the marriage is broken down and the spouses have not been living together for more than 3 years.
- The marriage would be contrary to the interests of the child, given by special reasons. Such special reasons may be e.g. the child’s handicap. In court decision-making practice, however, these cases are very rare.
Situations in which the court refuses to divorce the marriage for the two described reasons occur seldom in practice. It is questionable whether the court’s decision not to divorce the marriage can truly contribute to the renewal of the relationship – we believe it doesn’t, and the main benefit tends to be economic. For with the marriage, the maintenance obligations between the spouses remain intact. For instance, if one of the spouses were bedridden for a long period, dependent on assistance, expensive medication, etc., the preservation of the marriage could protect them from poverty.
How long do the proceedings take and what is their usual course?
After the issue of custody and alimony of joint minor children is resolved, the proceedings on divorce of marriage are usually concluded within a few weeks or months.
The fact that divorce proceedings sometimes last years is due to the order in which Czech courts deal with individual issues: first joint child custody and alimony, then the divorce itself. Hence, the more complicated issues are addressed at the start, and not separately.
For illustration, here are three cases of complications which extended some of our cases by months and even years:
- Issue of contact with children. Each of the spouses wanted to live in a different country after the divorce, and could not agree on when and where the father would see his children. Hence, the decision of this issue was left to the court, which invited a court expert to decide. Yet merely the compiling of an expert opinion in such cases takes over a year.
- Interpretation. If the proceedings are conducted in the Czech language and one of the spouses does not speak it, everything must be interpreted. However, this doubles the length of all proceedings, or rather the proceedings last the same time, but there are twice as many. The period between the two proceedings is generally in the range of months.
- Unpredictability of the counterparty. We have encountered cases when the other spouse unexpectedly changed their testimony and the court was unable to react to the situation immediately by ordering an interrogation. Instead, it ordered another hearing. What could have been decided at a single sitting was decided only at the fourth.
What are the costs for divorce proceedings?
A court fee of CZK 2,000 is paid for filing a motion to divorce a marriage.
Each party bears its own costs, without the right to compensation from the state or other party. The court may grant compensation of costs only in exceptional cases, if justified by the circumstances of the case.