Family

25 November 2016

7 important questions and answers about divorce

Apparently the decision really has been taken now. The word 'divorce' is out in the open. What now? To help you in this difficult period, you will find answers below to the 7 most frequently asked questions entailed by a divorce.

What to do first?

Start by taking your time to examine the possibilities, as the impact on your life will be considerable. Maybe you can still pick up the pieces.

Is the decision really inevitable? Do not act in haste or on impulse. That can cause additional tension and end up in a hostile divorce. And that will not help either of you.

First examine all the consequences, both administrative and financial. Go to a lawyer or family mediator and call in on us in good time about your banking for all the information and help you need.

Then, on that basis, the very best you can do is to agree as much as possible together. About the house and the children, but also about accounts and insurance. Preferably before the divorce proceedings start, but make sure you do not pressurise each other.

How to divorce?

Nowadays the three common ways to apply for a divorce are:

  • By mutual consent: In this case you make the necessary arrangements together with a mediator and your partner, about children and property for example. The mediator does not need to be a lawyer. Allow around 3 to 4 months for the whole procedure.
  • On the grounds of irretrievable breakdown: Has it become impossible to agree about everything with your partner? In that case you will have to start the divorce proceedings through a lawyer.
    Do not choose this option without careful consideration. The possibility of discussions about arrangements after the divorce is still open. In the case of a divorce by mutual consent, everything is finalised once the proceedings end.
  • By way of urgent and provisional measures: this is a temporary arrangement which leaves both parties room for reflection. In other words, nothing is final. In concrete terms, under these proceedings you or your partner will no longer be obliged to live together. In addition you can make a range of practical arrangements on paper.

What about the division of property? That depends on the matrimonial property regime under which you are married. Normally this will be the legal regime of three sets of assets but it may, for example, also be the regime of separation of property

In addition to these three methods, splitting up can also be arranged in two other special ways:

  • You can opt no longer to abide by the obligation to live together, but still continue with the marriage. This is known as separation; nothing is legally settled, but the courts take the situation into account.
  • A variant is legal separation. Legal proceedings are involved. You apply for the obligation to live together to be removed, and also for separation of property and for separate taxation.

If you are not married, but legal cohabitants, then you can choose to separate:

  • By mutual consent, by filing a joint statement with the municipal authorities.
  • Unilaterally, by informing the municipal authorities on your own. The authorities will then inform the partner by registered letter and through a bailiff, at the expense of the party who has filed the application.
  • Through the courts, which will make a ruling.

Do you live together but without a statement of legal cohabitation? Then you can simply change your domicile.

Whom should I opt for: a mediator, lawyer or notary?

The employment of a lawyer is not mandatory. Naturally you can enquire at a lawyer without taking further steps with them afterwards. In the case of a divorce by mutual consent, for example, a mediator is sufficient.

You will only need a notary if you have to share a house or flat. You may also ask for his or her help as a neutral party to put the arrangements and the division of household contents down on paper, but you are not obliged to.

What about alimony?

It is important to know that there are two kinds of alimony or maintenance. They are separate:

  1. Maintenance for your children
    The amount of maintenance depends strongly on your situation, just consider your monthly salary and household.
  2. Partner alimony
    You will pay this maintenance allowance if the other partner cannot provide enough money of his or her own to live on.
    The courts will also examine this issue on a case by case basis. Generally speaking a partner will not have a right to such alimony if he or she is working full time and can manage on that income. The matter will be different if, for example, your partner is no longer working because of the children. In that case it is very likely that you will have to pay an extra allowance for your ex-partner.
What about co-parenting?

Co-parenting of the children is standard practice in Belgium in the case of a divorce. This means that the children spend half their time with each partner.

It is most important to reach an arrangement with your ex-partner that you both stand by. In other words co-parenting is not the only option. You can also opt for weekend visiting rights or another arrangement.

Are you unable to agree? Then the courts will have to step in. They will consider the interests of the child, such as his or her welfare and a stable environment but also how far apart you live and what your son or daughter wants him- or herself. Therefore, the courts will by no means always decide in favour of co-parenting.

What about our home?

Whether you rent or are repaying a mortgage, you must make the necessary decisions about your shared home.

Do you own a house or flat? Be aware that every situation is unique. The terms of the deed of purchase and your cohabitation contract are paramount here. You should therefore ask the advice of your notary, lawyer or bank.

And do not forget your home loan. Until the divorce is final, you will still be liable if your ex-partner stops making payments.

Do you rent? In that case, you must inform the landlord as soon as possible to cancel the lease or put it into the name of the ex-partner remaining in the property.

What about our insurance and loans?

Naturally you have joint insurance policies and loans. It is important to investigate carefully at the start of the divorce proceedings whether you need to change the beneficiaries.Make an appointment with a member of staff at a local branch for this purpose as soon as possible.

Banking is farther-reaching than you may think. Consider the joint accounts and any mortgage on your home. Perhaps you also have a car policy, a shared safe deposit-box, your children's accounts or even a life insurance policy under which your ex-partner is the beneficiary.

Before you come and see us, we recommend that you look at our special check-list. We will then check everything for you and run the required simulations. That way, you will always know what to expect.

You may also need new insurance for your new home. We now have Home Insurance for that purpose. This is an insurance policy tailored to your needs and which you can take out instantly. It will also support you afterwards and help you from problem to solution.