DIVORCE WITH A FOREIGN NATIONAL IN BULGARIA
May 14, 2022
According to Bulgarian laws, divorce is defined as the dissolution of a marital relationship between spouses due to a serious and irreparable breakdown of the marriage as provided in Article 49 of the Family Code.
Cases of marriage dissolution where one of the spouses is a foreign national are becoming increasingly common in our practice. More often, it is the Bulgarian citizen who initiates the divorce proceedings against the foreign national in Bulgaria, but the other alternative is also hypothetically possible, where a foreign national seeks a divorce before a Bulgarian court.
The procedure for terminating a marriage involving foreign elements in the Republic of Bulgaria is preferred because of the lower costs of its implementation, and often because of the greater speed of action of the local courts of justice. The procedure is feasible even where the marriage was contracted abroad, and also in cases where both spouses are foreign nationals. In such cases, the condition predetermining the local competence of the Bulgarian courts is that at least one of the spouses has a permanent residence in the Republic of Bulgaria.
The proceedings are carried out following the general rules of Bulgarian laws which are also effective if the marriage was contracted between two Bulgarian nationals. The divorce decree is a valid and official instrument that can subsequently be legalized, translated, and used by either spouse abroad, if necessary.
Based on the type of relationship between the spouses, a few options for divorce can be outlined as provided in the Bulgarian Family Code:
I. Divorce by Mutual Consent (Uncontested Divorce) with a Foreign National in Bulgaria
If the married couple has kept their relationship normal, regardless of the breakdown of their marital union and the impossibility of continuing to live together in the future, the logical option for ending their marriage is a divorce by mutual consent (uncontested divorce). This court procedure is fast, takes about two months, and is preferred in cases where the spouses seek to end their marriage quickly. Divorce by mutual consent is characterized by serious and unwavering consent to end the marriage, which should be explicitly stated by both spouses. The married couple should represent and declare that such an agreement exists between them as soon as the divorce petition is submitted to the court. The legislator has provided for the spouses to give the same statement at least once more in person, to the judge. Both of them shall be required to attend the scheduled open court hearing and affirm their mutual desire to divorce in the courtroom.
In cases where the foreign national is not fluent in Bulgarian, the parties should request that the court appoints an interpreter which option is provided for in the Civil Procedure Code.
Upon ending the marriage by mutual consent, the spouses should also settle their post-marital relations. Therefore, an agreement shall be submitted along with the statement of claim, whereby the spouses settle their relations, child custody, support (alimony), property relations regarding the division of marital movable and immovable property, etc. To avoid future disputes, it is recommended that the agreement between the spouses is drafted by an experienced divorce lawyer and that all matters of importance to the divorcing spouses are mentioned and settled therein.
II. Divorce by General Claim Procedure (Contested Divorce)
In the cases where the relations between the spouses were not kept normal (i.e. there was a serious breakdown of their relations), the option of ending the marriage is a divorce by general claim procedure. In our practice, especially when a marriage involves foreign elements, a plaintiff in such a procedure is often a foreign national. Of course, there are also cases where the procedure is initiated by the Bulgarian citizen because the foreigner has left and their whereabouts are not known, they refuse to settle in Bulgaria, etc.
The divorce by general claim procedure (contested divorce) is carried out as a common action proceeding, wherein each of the parties is allowed to state their position and request the proper type of remedy from the court (in this case, dissolving the marriage and settling their post-marital relations). Unlike the divorce by mutual consent, the divorce by general claim procedure with a foreigner in Bulgaria is significantly more challenging and cumbersome in terms of its specifics, making it longer. One of the main challenges in the course of the procedure is associated with the delivery of court instruments to foreign nationals, especially if they are not located in the Republic of Bulgaria and have no permanent address in the country. In such cases, the court might need to appoint a special representative of the foreign national for the said procedure, and the costs thereof shall be borne by the plaintiff.
In the event of a divorce by general claim procedure, one of the important matters that need to be proved is the matter of fault. This matter may have a bearing on the final judgment and its consequences (particularly, spouse and/or child support). Therefore, you should organize your defense well using the services of an experienced divorce lawyer.
Regardless of whether you seek a divorce with a foreign national in Bulgaria or whether the foreign national has already initiated such legal proceedings against you, it is essential to consult a lawyer who has the necessary experience in such type of divorce cases. In recent years, our extensive practice in divorce cases involving foreign elements enables us to give proper guidance and advice to our clients so that the achieved outcomes be satisfactory for the client.
Should you have any questions related to a divorce with a foreign national or if you are a foreign national who seeks a divorce with their Bulgarian spouse, please, do not hesitate to enquire using the details provided in the „Contact Us” section.
Divorce with a foreign national in Bulgaria