Basic information about divorce proceedings in the Czech Republic
Foreigners constitute 5% of population of the Czech Republic. That is quite a significant number which means that Czech courts are increasingly dealing also with divorces of foreigners’ marriages.
Information below is meant to provide basic overview of divorce proceedings in the Czech Republic. It is not meant as a complete information, but rather as a helpful guide which I as an attorney give to my clients following introductory meeting and in-depth information on the process.
Innitial considerations regarding divorce
A marriage can be divorced in the Czech Republic if it has been recognized as a marriage within the territory (this will typically take place when a person files for permanent residency) and:
- the spouses are habitually resident, or
- the spouses were last habitually resident, insofar as one of them still resides there, or
- the respondent is habitually resident, or
- in the event of a joint application, either of the spouses is habitually resident, or
- the applicant is habitually resident if he or she resided there for at least a year immediately before the application was made, or
- the applicant is habitually resident if he or she resided there for at least six months immediately before the application was made and is either a national of the Czech Republic.
Application for divorce must be filed in Czech language. All underlying information and documents must be also presented in Czech language.
Czech court will base its decision on
- laws of spouse’s country of origin, in case they are both nationals of the same country,
- laws of the Czech Republic, in case they are each of different nationality (e.g. husband Swiss, wife Thai).
Amicable and contentious divorce
The Czech law distinguishes two types of divorce: amicable divorce and contentious divorce.
Contentious divorce takes place when the couple fails to reach agreement on any of the key parts of divorce. In that case, the court will decide on issues that remain unsettled.
Amicable divorce is possible when both husband and wife are in agreement about getting divorced as well as the key aspects regarding their children, property, etc.
Amicable divorce is possible when:
- the marriage has lasted for more than a year and the married couple does not live together for more than six months (i.e. the couple may be occupying the same flat, but for all practical purposes they do not form a family unit anymore),
- in case of common children, the parents have reached an agreement regarding post-divorce care of a child and court has approved such agreement,
- the couple have agreed on issues pertaining to their common property, housing and as the case may be also alimony.
Marriage can be divorced in the Czech Republic only when issues pertaining to children are solved first. This may be done either by mutual agreement which is then finalized by a court decision, or through contentious court hearings.
Division of common property
First of all, it is important to establish what actually is common property and what is an exclusive property of each of the couple. Generally everything that either or both of the couple gained during the marriage is their common property.
Exclusive property typically consists of:
- what either of the couple gained before the marriage,
- property for personal use of either of the couple,
- property gained as a gift or inheritance by either of the couple,
- property gained as damages for injury committed to a person’s natural rights,
- property gained as damages for loss of property exclusively owned by either of the couple.
There are three possibilities to deal with common property:
- amicable – by agreement of the couple,
- amicable – by law,
- contentious – by court decision.
The married couple is free to divide their common property as they wish in an agreement. Such agreement would typically be filed in together with the motion for divorce.
Amicable – by law. This means that if there has been neither an agreement nor a court decision within 3 years since the divorce, then:
- material possessions remain in the sole ownership of that person, who solely uses them for their family or their household,
- other material possessions as well as immovable property (flat, house) will be co-owned by both (with 50/50 stake), and
- other rights, receivables or debts will be co-owned by both (with 50/50 stake).
In case of contentious proceeding on the division of common property, the court will abide by the following rules:
- both parties’ shares will be equal (50/50),
- each of the parties shall refund funds used from common property towards their exclusive property,
- each party may request refund of funds they spent from their exclusive property towards common property,
- needs of dependent offspring shall be taken into account,
- taking into consideration how each of the couple was taking care of the family, especially as regards children and common household,
- taking into consideration how each of the couple contributed towards acquisition and maintenance of the common property.
Amicable divorce requires also planning as regards future housing. This may be straightforward when there are multiple properties of which each of the couple gains exclusive ownership in the agreement on property.
In other cases the couple need to decide whether they will both continue to live in the same property after the divorce or whether one of them will leave (even if they become owner of 50% share of the flat).
Alimony is typically associated with payments made towards one’s offspring. Under Czech law, however, one of the couple may be liable to pay alimony also to the other (separate of any property deal reached in property agreement mentioned above).
One may be liable to pay alimony in case that
- the other is unable to provide for themselves on their own,
- this inability to provide for themselves originated in the marriage, and
- the payment of alimony is just (e.g. taking into consideration the age or health of the payer).
Alimony may be replaced by a single compensation payment.
In case that one of the couple suffers significant detriment by the divorce and this person did not cause the marriage to fail, they can request an alimony in the amount that will provide them with the same standard of living as the payer (for up to three years).
In case that there is a chance of reaching an amicable divorce, we will try to find solution to issues pertaining to division of common property, housing, alimony and children (if there were any).
Securing necessary documents
A marriage certificate must be presented to the court.
In case that the marriage took place in another country, an apostille must be added to the marriage certificate (typically at embassy) and it must be also translated by a court translator.
As the case may be, other documents may be also needed.
Filing for divorce
Once agreement on necessary issues is reached and necessary documents are secured, a lawsuit may be filed at the court. Court fee for divorce is CZK 2.000.
If needed, court will appoint an interpreter. Interpreter costs during the proceeding will be paid by the court.
Court proceeding will take upwards from four months depending on outlying issues and on whether the divorce will be amicable or contentious.
Please be aware that at least one court hearing may take place where the judge will be confirming information written in the agreement and in the lawsuit.
These are the main steps you need to take:
- Secure all necessary documents and their translations,
- prepare a detailed list of common and exclusive property and the way it will be divided,
- decide on preferred future living arrangement,
- decide on alimony or one-time payment of compensation (or neither).
In general, I recommend having an in-depth meeting with an attorney as a very first thing – even before talking the matter through with a spouse.
If you are considering getting a divorce in the Czech Republic, don’t hesitate to contact me.