Divorce dissolves spouses’ rights and obligations; however, rights and obligations between divorced spouses are also newly created through it. Among the most important is a divorced spouse’s right to maintenance, which may be used to compensate for differing economic opportunities and a differing standard of living after the divorce. Czech law recognizes—stated simply—two types of maintenance obligations between divorced spouses: sanction maintenance and ordinary maintenance. If the former spouses cannot agree on how maintenance should be provided, the court decides in this matter.

What We Can Do for You

We can write up a maintenance agreement by divorced spouses for you. An agreement is generally a faster and more pleasant solution than the situation where a court decides on maintenance . 

We can represent you in a dispute on maintenance for a divorced spouse. If the given case demands it, we can engage one of our partnering foreign lawyers in this work. 

Basic questions and answers on maintenance obligation between spouses after an international divorce

When is the matter decided in Czech courts? When is it decided in foreign courts?

Czech courts 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 happen to be in different countries, the former spouse who is planning to enforce a claim for the payment of maintenance via the courts may choose between them. 

The former spouses may also reach an agreement on the choice of country whose courts will decide any disputes on maintenance for a divorced spouse. They can reach such an agreement within their prenuptial agreement, or later before the divorce or after it. The choice of country is not, however, unlimited, and it must bear a close relation to one of the spouses or their marriage. They can thus choose, for example, the courts of a country of which one of them is a citizen, or of the country that would decide other disputes in their marriage. 

In exceptional situations, Czech courts could also make the decision when none of the courts of the EU member state have jurisdiction, and meanwhile, 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 divorced spouse’s right to maintenance will primarily be assessed based on the law of the country containing the entitled spouse’s habitual residence. An assessment can also instead be made, based on an objection by one of the former spouses, under the law of a different country with which the marriage is more closely related (typically a country in which the divorced spouses had their last joint habitual residence, or a country of which they are both citizens).

However, the former spouses can also agree to choose another country’s law instead, specifically:

  • the law of a 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 being the applicable law for their matrimonial property relations within, for example, their marital agreement, or the law that is actually used in practice for their matrimonial property relations;
  • the 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 obligations of divorced spouses under Czech law?

Ordinary maintenance for a divorced spouse

Primarily the following conditions must be met in order for a divorced spouse to have the right to maintenance:

  • the entitled spouse is not capable of supporting themselves (primarily due to low or no income);
  • their incapability to support themselves has its origins in the marriage or arose in connection with it (for example due to care for a shared minor child);
  • it is fair to apply the request for maintenance.

The court takes a number of criteria into account when setting the amount of the maintenance. It primarily evaluates the length of the marriage and how much time has passed since the divorce, whether the divorced spouse was involved in care for the household during the marriage, whether the divorced spouse committed any acts against the other spouse or a person close to them that have the character of a crime, whether the divorced spouse arranged adequate employment for themselves, etc.The court grants maintenance as an amount to be paid regularly each month for a period that need not be time-limited (however, the right to maintenance is logically terminated after, for example, the death or remarriage of the entitled spouse). Ordinary maintenance for a divorced spouse should be granted by the court in an “appropriate scope,” and it typically does not exceed CZK 5,000  per month. By agreement, maintenance can also be replaced with a one-time lump sum payment.

Sanction maintenance for a divorced spouse

A divorced spouse can enforce a claim for sanction maintenance in a court proceeding if:

  • they predominantly were not at fault in the collapse of the marriage or did not agree to the divorce;
  • the divorce caused them serious harm;
  • they did not engage in behavior bearing characteristics of domestic violence towards the other spouse.

In this case as well, support is granted as a regular monthly payment, but for a maximum of three years from the divorce. Sanction maintenance for a divorced spouse should fundamentally provide this entitled spouse with the same standard of living as before, and therefore it is possible for this maintenance, in the case of an obligated spouse with very high income or extensive properties, to even amount to hundreds of thousands of Czech crowns per month.

How long do the proceedings last, and what are their typical steps?

If one of the former spouses is not meeting their maintenance obligation voluntarily, the court determines its amount on the basis of a lawsuit by the entitled spouse. Support can be granted from the date of submission of the lawsuit at the earliest. The proceedings typically last for multiple months; in 2017, the average length of civil proceedings in the Czech Republic was roughly 10 months. 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.

Can a foreign decision in these matters be used in the Czech Republic?

If this decision is one 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 needing any special proceedings and without the possibility for contesting its recognition. 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, they can only be executed after they have been declared as enforceable in a special proceeding before the Czech courts. 

In cases concerning a decision on maintenance for a divorced spouse that comes from a country other than the above, the matters of simplified recognition and enforceability may be governed by a bilateral international treaty on legal assistance. Even where no such treaty exists, the standard situation 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 these 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 support for divorced spouses.

Compensation for the costs of the proceedings is granted depending on the degree of success in the proceedings.