Divorce is a painful stage of life, but the Notary can help you cope and work out the most even-handed and mutually acceptable solutions for each party.

There are two forms of divorce in Belgian law today: divorce by mutual consent, and divorce on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

The Notary has very little to do with the preparations for divorce on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. These involve complex legal proceedings that will be conducted by a court lawyer without the parties having had to agree on the essential elements of their divorce. Your divorce will go through quickly, therefore, but you will still have all the issues relating to your children, who gets the family home, the share-out of furniture, etc., to settle afterwards.

With a divorce by mutual consent, however, you can settle all these matters before legal proceedings are even commenced; everything will be arranged in advance, quickly and without the costs of a court lawyer. It also takes place without mutual recriminations or justification of one’s conduct. All that is required is to agree first on getting divorced, and then on the after-divorce arrangements. You will therefore have to agree on what your and your children’s situation will be after your divorce and then proceed to divide up the real property and chattels (household furniture but also your cars, securities, jewellery, money, etc.) and agree on custody and staying access arrangements for your children, the maintenance contribution of each spouse and any child support to be paid.

This is where the Notary’s crucial role comes in: after hearing the parties describe their family situation to him, the Notary will mediate between and provide advice to each of the two parties. He will then offer guidance towards a solution that both parties accept as fair and reasonable, explaining the civil, social security and financial consequences of their various agreements. The Notary will take into account the interests not only of each party but also of the children.

Once the pre-divorce agreements have been written and registered, the Notary will draw up the petition for a divorce by mutual consent and file it with the Court of First Instance for it to approve the terms and make a decree of divorce.

Once the petitions have been filed, the spouses will have to enter a personal appearance in court; if they have been living apart for less than six months, they will have to make two separate court appearances. If they have been living apart for more than six months, they will only have to enter one appearance. In practice, the procedure takes between three and five months.

The spouses can also always withdraw the proceedings if they do not want to go ahead with the divorce. If they have fallen out of agreement either on getting divorced or on the matters contained in the pre-divorce agreements, they can also change the proceedings into divorce on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. So, nothing is final at this stage and the best option is always to try and come to an agreement through the Notary’s mediation role. This can help avoid painful conflicts and preserve harmony within the family.

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