UNCONTESTED AND CONTESTED DIVORCE IN BULGARIA: SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES
January 15, 2023
According to Bulgarian laws, a marriage can only be ended by a judgment of the court. A court of competent jurisdiction to hear such legal actions shall be the District Court. Divorce proceedings may be initiated by either spouse alone or by both spouses on the grounds of serious and irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, depending on the particular case. Thus, we can distinguish two types of the divorce action in legal practice; herein, we shall discuss the main differences between those two and the advantages of one type of court procedure over the other.
Divorce By Mutual Consent ( Uncontested Divorce ) Under Article 50 Of The Family Code
Dissolution of marriage by mutual consent is seen in cases where both spouses have reached a mutual and unwavering decision to terminate their marital union. It is known as uncontested divorce. In witness of this consent, both parties execute a written agreement by Article 51 of the Family Code, which settles the issues concerning their relations after ending the marriage. This is a convenient option for married couples who prefer a faster way to end their marriage. This type of legal action is characterized by the following:
1.Court proceedings take less time, usually, in most cases only about two to three months after filing the action in court; whereas the ruling is final. The court judgment on uncontested divorce is not subject to appeal and comes into effect immediately, i.e. may be used by the parties.
2.The petition to the court for divorce by mutual consent should be signed personally by both spouses.
3.Both spouses should appear in person at the scheduled court hearing under the case and present to the judge their verbal confirmation of their unwavering consent to the dissolution of their marriage.
4.Legal costs incurred for such cases are not high unless there is a property settlement between the spouses.
5.If the spouses have minor children from their marriage, signing an agreement allows them to settle a rather extended regime of child custody and parenting time with the children, if any, which is always in the children’s interest.
6.An important advantage is that the spouses may agree on the division of the marital movable and immovable property, which is impossible in divorce by general claim procedure.
7.This court procedure does not examine the issue of fault for the divorce.
Divorce By General Claim Procedure (Contested Divorce) Under Article 49 Of The Family Code
Usually, a divorce by general claim procedure is petitioned by one of the spouses in cases where the parties are not able to reach an agreement on the voluntary termination of marriage, i.e. cannot settle their relations associated with the division of marital property, child custody, etc., by their free will. An action for divorce can also be filed in cases where the plaintiff considers that the breakdown of the marriage is the fault of the other spouse and wants to benefit from the legal consequences thereof, such as an award of financial support (alimony) by the other spouse, an award of the custody over minor children, exclusive use of the marital home, etc. In legal practice, there are also cases, especially in the case of a marriage of a Bulgarian citizen with a foreign national, when one of the spouses has lost contact with the other and no longer wishes to be bound by their marital relationship (in such cases, the court appoints a special representative of the other spouse, who is not able to attend the hearing).
The divorce by general claim procedure is characterized by the following:
1.It lasts much longer than the divorce by mutual consent, and the court decision is subject to appeal to a higher court. Therefore, about these proceedings, a request can be made for temporary measures regarding the custody of minor children and temporary use of the marital home through the end of the proceedings.
2.The plaintiff must attend the first hearing in person; otherwise, the proceedings on the case shall be cancelled if he fails to do so.
3.In this legal proceeding, the court shall not divide the marital property between the spouses, and they may not settle this matter in court at this stage.
4.If a request is made by either of the parties, the court will rule on the issue of whose fault it is for the breakdown of the marriage. This, in turn, will have a bearing on which spouse will be awarded child custody (and the court will determine a regime of parental time with the children for the other spouse); this will result in an award of alimony from the defaulting spouse if such was requested; this will also have a bearing on the use of the marital home after the divorce if such was requested and on the awarding of the costs of the case.
Considering the specifics of each of the two alternative court procedures above, it is evident that before taking any steps to end the marriage, it is important to choose the such legal route that is likely to satisfy the demands of the divorcing parties to the maximum extent, and of the spouse who seeks a divorce, respectively. In a life situation, when the marital relationship between the spouses is seriously compromised one way or another, and at least one of the parties desires to terminate the marriage, the help of a divorce lawyer shall be needed. The lawyer will try to explain the advantages of a painless dissolution of the marriage which would be in their best interest, given the specifics of these proceedings and the consequences that shall be long-lasting both for the divorcing spouses and for the children of the marriage, if any.
We can assist you with legal advice, hold negotiations with the other party and provide legal representation in court in any of the two types of divorce, by mutual agreement – uncontested divorce – or by general claim procedure (contested divorce). For more information, please, feel free to enquire using the „Contacts” section.
Divorce with a foreign national in Bulgaria