We regularly act in divorce cases with an international dimension, and represent clients across the world who are seeking to divorce under English law. If you are an Estonian living in the UK or you or your spouse have a connection to Estonia – perhaps you were married there – you should be aware of some of the specifics of Estonian divorce and family law as your final divorce settlement could be affected. We outline some of the key areas of Estonian divorce law below.
Joint Property And The Estonian Family Law Act, 2010
Family law in Estonia underwent a major shift with the 2010 Family Law Act (the FLA). The legislation promoted the idea that husbands and wives should take responsibility for the way they held property together. When a couple applies for a marriage licence in Estonia they also have the opportunity to choose the marital property regime they want, choosing between:
- A joint property approach which will result in close financial ties
- A set-off regime which allows for greater financial separation whilst at the same time affording a certain degree of protection for the financially weaker spouse
- Complete separation of property
- A formal, bespoke agreement similar to a prenuptial agreement
When a couple divorce, property is divided in accordance with whatever regime the couple opted for when they married.
What About Spousal Maintenance Payments In Estonia?
If, following the divorce, one parent is unable to maintain him or herself because of childcare commitments then he or she is entitled to maintenance until the child reaches the age of three.
A divorced spouse can also seek maintenance on the basis of his or her age or state of health. Such payments can continue for as long as the spouse receiving the payments is unable to work.
Child Arrangements Following Estonian Divorce
Usually following an Estonian divorce parents will retain joint custody of children (minors) and parental responsibility is unaffected.
Parents are encouraged to agree who the child should live with and to what extent the other parent should be involved in the child’s upbringing. Parents should also try to reach an agreement on child maintenance – the amount and the duration for which it should be paid, (however note that there is also a general obligation for parents to maintain children in full time education up to the age of 21).
If the parents can’t agree on child arrangements it’s open to either of them to apply to the court for sole custody.
What Are The Grounds For Divorce In Estonia?
A divorce can be obtained from a registry office or a notary if both spouses agree. Both spouses must reside in Estonia.
A divorce will also be granted where one spouse applies on the basis that ‘conjugal relations’ have definitively ended. This means cohabitation has ended and there is no prospect of a reconciliation.)
If the couple has been living separately for more than two years the courts will presume that conjugal relations have ended. A registry office or a notary may grant a divorce by mutual agreement between the spouses on the basis of a joint written application and if both spouses reside in Estonia.
Getting Advice On Estonian Family Law
If there is an Estonian element to your divorce, it may be important to understand the interplay between English and Estonian law and how your divorce may be affected. Here at Brookman we fully understand these cross-border issues and can provide advice on any particular obstacles you may face, including what to do if your spouse issues divorce proceedings before you.
Even if we have not had direct experience in a particular country, such as Estonia, our expertise in dealing with a variety of legal systems across the world gives us the ability to deal effectively with the rules and regulations whatever the jurisdiction.
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