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Brief Overview of Divorce and Division of Marital Assets Proceedings under Cyprus Law

All matters involving or related to divorce, split of marital assets, maintenance of spouse and/ or children, parental responsibility, adoption and any other issue constituting a family dispute is subject to separate Applications to the Court.  Practically this means, that a person applying for Divorce cannot with the same application apply for split of marital assets, as this involves a different jurisdiction of the Court.

  1. DIVORCE PROCEDURE

The procedure followed for the issuance of Divorce as well as the duration of it, varies depending on whether the marriage is a civil marriage, a religious marriage and the spiritual doctrine under which it was conducted, as well as the choice of a party to appear in Court or not, as explained below.

  • Who can file for Divorce?

Cyprus Family Courts can assume jurisdiction over a dispute concerning a divorce irrespective of whether the parties are Cypriot citizens. The only requirement is that both or one of the parties has been residing in Cyprus for a continuous minimum period of three months.

  • When can the Application for Divorce be filed?

Civil Marriages

In case of civil marriage an Application for Divorce can be filed immediately after the date of separation. The same applies for religious marriage conducted under any religious doctrine other than the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus, Armenian, Latin or Maronite Church.

Religious Marriages of Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus, Armenian, Latin & Maronite Church

However, in case that the parties have been married in Cyprus under the rules of Greek Orthodox Church they cannot file a divorce application to Family Court immediately unless the reason for divorce is insanity or disappearance of the spouse. A Notice of Intent of Divorce (hereinafter referred to as “The Notice”) has to be sent to the competent Bishop via registered mail. A Divorce Application can be filed three months after the Bishop has received the above Notice. Similar provisions apply in regards to Armenian, Latin and Maronite Church marriages.

It is important to note that the above Notice is important for the proceedings at Court and it is advisable that legal advice should be sought before the mailing of the Notice, as this can later interfere with the Court proceedings.

  • What are the reasons for Divorce? Is there divorce by mutual consent in Cyprus?

Reasons for Divorce vary depending on the religious doctrine under which the marriage was conducted. In Cyprus, there is no divorce by mutual consent as the legal system in Cyprus is adversarial. There is however, the commonly used reason that is, the disruption of the spouses’ relationships for reasons attributable either to the other spouse or both spouses, so that the continuation of the marriage is unbearable for the Applicant. Other reasons, amongst others, may include continuous separation for a period of four years, insanity, adultery, violence and abuse etc.

  • What is the procedure followed and how long does it take for a Divorce to be issued?

After filing the Application for Divorce, the time within which the Divorce Order may be issued varies. Usually, the Application is fixed after a month of the date of filing. At this stage the parties do not have to appear at Court, only their representing advocates. If the Application is serviced to the Respondent but the Respondent does not file a Memorandum of Appearance, then the Divorce is further fixed for “Proof”, usually within a month from the date of the first appearance. At the date of Proof, if the Court is satisfied that the requirements for issuing a Divorce Order are met, then a Divorce Order is issued. Ιn case the Respondent choses to file a Memorandum of Appearance and a Defence, the time for the issuance of the Divorce Order will invariably be enlarged as in this case, a Hearing will follow. The time the Divorce will be fixed for a Hearing, the time the Hearing will actually commence, as well as the duration of the Hearing depends on many factors (i.e. Court schedule, extension of the evidence etc.). The Divorce Order becomes final after the lapse of the period for Appeal.

  • Do the Divorce procedures apply for Civil Unions as well?

With some exceptions, civil unions have the corresponding effects and consequences of a marriage. Dissolution of the civil union can be achieved without a Court Order with a common statement of the spouses and becomes effective at a later date. Alternatively, dissolution of the Civil Union can be achieved with a Court Order, after the filing of an Application and service to the other spouse. Even though the reasons for filing for a dissolution of the civil union are not specified in the Civil Union Law,

the Court takes into consideration the wishes of any of the spouses for the dissolution of the Civil Union.

  • Is there a faster procedure for the issuance of Divorce?

Unfortunately, there are no alternative dispute resolution regimes the parties can take advantage for the time being.

  1. SPLIT OF MATRIMONIAL PROPERTY
  • How can a division of Marital Assets be achieved?

Even though there are relevant provisions in the legislation, the reasons for the divorce do not usually interfere with the way the Court will divide Marital Assets. Alternatively, if the parties agree on the division an agreement can be signed between the spouses, converting the family dispute into a contractual.

  • Who can file a Court Application?

In case of a relevant Application in Family Court, there is an exception as to the requirement of a continuous minimum period of residence of three months in the Republic of Cyprus.

A person who wishes to apply for split of the marital assets can file a relevant application in Family Court within three years of the dissolution or annulment of the marriage the latest. The Application can be filed from the moment of the separation of the spouses and thus, it is not necessary for a Divorce Order to have been previously obtained.

  • How do Family Courts divide the property?

Family Court distributes the increase of the property, not the property itself. This is done with the exercise of comparing the assets acquired during the marriage and the assets present at the date of separation.

The division of marital assets is made by the Court in a way that each spouse is entitled to receive his / her contribution on the above increase of the property. Contribution is decided based on evidence provided at the Hearing. Relevant valuations are usually needed.

In case an increase of the property is established, in the absence of evidence either proving or disproving the contribution of the Respondent the Court will apply the presumption that the Respondents contribution was 1/3 of the increase.

  • Which property is taken into account?

The property taken into account is the all property, movable and immovable, acquired during or with the perspective of marriage excluding assets acquired or disposed by reason of donation, inheritance or gratis.

  • Are the debts taken into account?

In case there are debts, Family Court cannot issue an Order for the Repayment of debts from one spouse to another. However, the increase subject to the above division, is not the value of the spouse’s assets, but the net value of the property found after taking into account both the spouses assets and financial liabilities.

  • What happens in case someone has contributed to a property not in his name or to the property of the couples company?

It has been clarified by Family Court of Appeal that the title of an asset does not have to be in the name of the Respondent in order for the Applicant to claim for contribution, even if that asset is been held on trust by a third party, a company or the other spouse.

  • Are there any measures that can be taken to prohibit a spouse to transfer the property?

Yes, Family Courts have various powers, including but not limited to, issuing freezing orders in order to prohibit a spouse to dispose, alienate or encumber the property or even annul the transfer of an asset. Furthermore, Family Courts can issue an Order of transfer of a particular asset to the Applicant.

If you have any questions or require a free initial consultation, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Firm of G. Vrikis & Associates LLC at info@vrikislegal.com, +357 22 261 777 or +357 25 261 888 or please visit our offices in either Nicosia or Limassol.