Spouses have a mutual maintenance obligation that is in accord with the principle of mutual support and that provides for the protection of the weaker party. The existence of a marriage is the fundamental prerequisite for the establishment and continued existence of this maintenance obligation. Therefore, a maintenance obligation is established through the spouses’ entry into a marriage, and it lasts in principle throughout the marriage. The aim and goal of the mutual maintenance obligation between spouses is the provision of, in principle, the same standard of living for both spouses. Ideally, the same standard of living for spouses during a marriage comes about naturally, and there is no need to demand its protection through the courts. However, situations can arise in which the right to maintenance does need to be enforced through the courts. Typically, for example, when one of the spouses abandons their shared household, or during the period preceding a divorce.
What We Can Do for You
We can help you to enforce your right to a standard of living equal to that of your spouse.
In a maintenance dispute between you and your spouse, we can represent you and prepare arguments in support of your claim.
If the case demands it, we can engage one of our partnering foreign lawyers in this work.
Basic questions and answers on maintenance obligation between spouses
When are these matters decided in Czech courts? When are they decided in foreign courts?
Czech courts can typically decide on maintenance between divorced spouses if the Czech Republic is:
- the place of habitual residence of the obligated spouse
- the place of habitual residence of the entitled spouse
If these places were in different countries, the spouse who is planning to enforce a claim for the payment of maintenance through the courts may choose between them.
The spouses may also reach an agreement on their choice of the country whose courts will decide disputes (future and present) on maintenance, for example in their prenuptial agreement. However, this choice is not unlimited, and it must bear some close relation to the parties and the marriage. It is thus possible to choose, for example, the courts of a country of which one of the spouses is a citizen, or of the country that would decide other disputes in their marriage.
In exceptional cases, Czech courts may also decide in situations where none of the courts of a EU member state have jurisdiction, and in the third country that does have a close relationship to the dispute, no proceedings are possible, or it is not reasonably possible to initiate or conduct them.
When is the matter governed by Czech law? When is it governed by foreign law?
A spouse’s right to maintenance will primarily be assessed based on the law of the country where is the habitual residence of the entitled spouse or, on the basis of an objection by one of the spouses, based on the law of another country with which the marriage is more closely related (typically the country in which the spouses had their last joint habitual residence, or the country of which they are both citizens).
However, the spouses can agree to choose different law, specifically:
- the law of the country of which one of the spouses is a citizen at the time of entering into the agreement;
- the law of a country in which one of the spouses has their habitual residence at the time of entering into the agreement;
- the law defined by the spouses or the engaged couple as the applicable law for their property relations in, for example, their marital agreement, or the law that is actually used in practice for their matrimonial property relations;
- law defined by the spouses as the applicable law for their divorce or separation, or the law that is actually used in practice for their divorce or separation.
For this choice of law to be applicable with certainty, it must be ensured that both spouses are fully informed of the legal consequences of their choice.
What rules govern the mutual maintenance obligation of spouses under Czech law?
The aim of the maintenance between spouses is to provide, in principle, an identical standard of living for both spouses. It works from the principles of voluntariness, solidarity, mutual aid, and protection of the weaker party. The scope of maintenance is built up from general criteria, specifically the capabilities, possibilities, and financial circumstances of the obligated spouse and the justified needs of the entitled spouse. The court should take into account both the actual and potential capabilities and opportunities of the obligated spouse. The specific scope of maintenance between spouses should be defined so as to provide both spouses with the same material and cultural level. The process of defining maintenance between spouses is not only about providing food for the entitled spouse; it is also about providing means for paying for all other personal needs, cultural, recreational, etc. Maintenance does not have to have a consumption-based character; it can also be defined so that the entitled spouse can build up savings, invest, etc.
Therefore, in the case of spouses with high incomes or extensive property, support on the order of hundreds of thousands of crowns per month is no exception.
How long do the court proceedings last, and what are their typical steps?
If one of the spouses is not meeting their maintenance obligation voluntarily, the court then determines its amount based on a lawsuit by the entitled spouse. Support can be granted from the date of submission of the lawsuit at the earliest. The length of any eventual court proceedings is primarily affected by the extent of the income and property of the obligated spouse and the degree of difficulty of the evidence procedure. The proceedings typically last for multiple months; in 2017, for example, the average length of civil proceedings in the Czech Republic was roughly 10 months.
Can a foreign decision in these matters be used within the Czech Republic?
If this is a decision issued in a member state bound by the Hague Protocol on Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations (mainly EU states, with the exceptions of Denmark and the United Kingdom), it will be automatically recognized in the Czech Republic without a need for special proceedings, and with no possibility for its recognition to be contested. If an obligated spouse is not meeting their obligation voluntarily, it is also possible within the Czech Republic to legally enforce the decision, for example through execution.
Decisions issued in Denmark or the United Kingdom are, with a few exceptions, automatically recognized in the Czech Republic with no further proceedings; however, their execution is only possible after they have been declared as enforceable in a special proceeding before the Czech courts.
In cases concerning a decision on maintenance for a spouse that was issued by countries other than the above, the matter of simplified recognition and of enforceability may be governed by a bilateral international agreement on legal assistance. Even where no such treaty exists, the standard approach is that foreign decisions can be executed immediately, unless they are in conflict with one of the conditions for recognition defined in Czech law.
What are the costs of the proceedings?
Under the law on court fees that is applicable until December 31st, 2020, the proposing party is freed from court fees in proceedings on maintenance for spouses.
Compensation for the costs of the proceedings is provided based on the degree of success in the proceedings.