Τhe European Court of Justice has ruled on the issue of jurisdiction to hear a divorce case between spouses from different states. The Court clarified the meaning and scope of the concept of the « habitual residence » of a spouse.
In its judgment, the Court clarified the concept of the ‘habitual residence’ of a spouse and holds that, even if a spouse divides his or her time between two Member States, he or she may have only one habitual residence within the meaning of Article 3(1)(a) of the Brussels IIa Regulation. In particular, the Court of Appeal in Paris asked the EU Court whether a spouse who divides his or her time between two Member States may have his habitual residence in both Member States, with the result that the courts of both Member States have jurisdiction to rule on the divorce.
The Court emphasized the particular circumstances surrounding the determination of the habitual residence of a spouse. Thus, where a spouse decides to settle in another Member State because of a marital crisis, he or she remains free to retain social and family ties in the Member State of the former matrimonial residence. Moreover, the environment of an adult is more varied than that of a child, consisting of a wider range of activities and diverse interests, and it cannot be required that they should be focused on the territory of a single Member State.
The European Court of Justice concluded that, where a spouse divides his or her time between two Member States, only the courts of the Member State in which that habitual residence is situated have jurisdiction to rule on the application for dissolution of the matrimonial ties. It is for the referring court to ascertain, on the basis of all the factual circumstances of the case, whether the applicant has transferred his habitual residence, for the purposes of Article 3(1)(a) of the Brussels IIa Regulation, to the Member State of that court. (curia.europa.eu/ photo: freepik.com)
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